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Commitment to Refugee Protection Obligations

Commitment to Refugee Protection Obligations

Mr Ruddock said he was disappointed that comments today by a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concerning Australia's strengthened arrangements for handling unauthorised boat arrivals raised doubts about Australia's ongoing commitment.

"The Government has stated from the outset that Australia will meet its international refugee protection obligations under the new measures," Mr Ruddock said.

"Unauthorised boat arrivals transferred offshore will have access to a proper refugee assessment process, as have all previous asylum seekers transferred to offshore processing centres," he added.

The Government is currently developing the necessary legislative amendments to implement its changes to arrangements for offshore processing of asylum claims.

"Refugee applicants will be provided with proper care during the assessment process and will be protected against return to their homeland while their claims are assessed," Mr Ruddock said.

"If they are found to be entitled to refugee protection, resettlement will be arranged for them. On that basis it is not constructive for UNHCR to imply that applicants would be penalised for their method of entry.

"Australia's offshore processing arrangements have been in place since 2001. More than 1,500 people have already been successfully processed under these arrangements," Mr Ruddock said.

Australia has a long and distinguished record of responding to refugee needs, with more than 660 000 refugees resettled in Australia since World War II.

"The Government will continue its dialogue with the UNHCR on the detail and implementation of the changes and would welcome that agency's constructive engagement in that process," Mr Ruddock said.

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