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Australia provides refugee relief on the Thailand-Burma border

I am pleased to announce that the Australian Government is contributing a further $ 1 million in humanitarian relief to Burmese refugees residing in camps on the Thailand-Burma border. The funds are being provided through AusAID's humanitarian relief program.

The Australian Government is conscious of the burdens placed on Thailand by this refugee presence, and we are prepared to do what we can to help share the burden of refugee relief. Australia encourages Thailand to continue to provide sanctuary to civilian refugees from Burma so long as it is unsafe for them to return to Burma. We also encourage Burma's Government - the State Peace and Development Council - to take steps to improve the observance of human rights inside Burma, which is the underlying cause of the problem.

The aid is for over 115,000 refugees composed of largely the Karen ethnic minority but also the Mon and Karenni peoples. Australian funds will provide food, mosquito nets, firewood, blankets and basic health care. The assistance is designed to promote self-sufficiency and assist the refugees in establishing their own health system. The relief programs will be implemented in partnership with Australian NGOs.

$650,000 is going to the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) as part of their work with the Burmese Border Consortium (BBC) which currently provide all the food and relief assistance to the refugees. A further $350,000 has been allocated to Community Aid Abroad (Oxfam in Australia) to provide medical assistance to reduce the spread of communicable diseases and improve sanitation. These activities include malaria control, immunisation, and the development of adequate sanitation facilities to reduce the prevalence of disease in the camps.

For more information:

Innes Willox, Ministerial, 02 6277 7500; 0411 414 695

Kirk Coningham, Departmental, 02 6261 1555; 0418 623 327