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Minister Announces Humanitarian Program Intake

Hon. Philip Ruddock

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Australia

7 May, 2002

Minister Announces Humanitarian Program Intake for 2002-03

Australia's Humanitarian Program will continue to give priority to people in greatest need of resettlement, with 12,000 new places for the 2002-03 financial year, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said today.

"In addition to the 12,000 new places, the Humanitarian Program will be supplemented by any unused places rolled over from the current year's program," Mr Ruddock said.

"Australia's ability to provide protection to refugees in greatest need has been threatened over the past few years by unauthorised boat arrivals, but the decline in boats provides an encouraging sign for our capacity to share the burden with countries of first asylum.

"Within the program, there will be an estimated 4,000 places for refugees resettled from offshore. Included as part of these 4,000 places will be any asylum seekers accepted by Australia from the intercepted caseload in Indonesia and the offshore processing centres of Nauru, Manus Island and Cocos Keeling and Christmas Islands."

With the decrease in numbers of unauthorised arrivals and the inclusion of the intercepted caseload in the offshore refugee category there will be a greater scope to accommodate the demand offshore under the Special Humanitarian Program.

"This Program is for people in refugee-like situations, with links to Australia and who have suffered human rights abuses in their home country. I expect 6,000 places will be used for this purpose," Mr Ruddock said.

A notional 2,000 places have been set aside to meet possible onshore needs.

"Within the Humanitarian Program we will continue to give priority to people who are in the most vulnerable situations and have the greatest need for resettlement places," Mr Ruddock said.

"I am very concerned about the threat to Australia's ability to find a place for those refugees living in countries of first asylum who cannot go home and who are unable to remain where they are. Our ability to assist those most in need is being compromised by the actions of people-smugglers."

Regional priority in the Program will continue to be given to Africa and the Middle East and South West Asia region as recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Australia is one of only nine countries that operate a dedicated resettlement program each year.

The resettlement program goes beyond any international obligations and reflects Australia's desire to assist refugees and people in humanitarian need. Per capita, Australia has one of the highest resettlement rates in the world.

In view of the approximately 22 million refugees and other people of concern in various regions around the world, Australia can realistically hope to resettle only a small proportion of these large numbers.

Australia's resettlement program is, therefore, focused on those in the greatest need of resettlement.

"For each of the past five years Australia has had a program of a total of 12,000 new humanitarian places for offshore resettlement and onshore protection applications," Mr Ruddock said.

"This figure is arrived at through consultation with the Australian community, the UNHCR and taking into account the number of new humanitarian entrants we can reasonably manage.

"The costs of sustaining refugees include the provision of a generous suite of settlement services to help refugees successfully settle into Australian society."

7 May 2002

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