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Minister urges considered response on refugees.

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M e d i a R e l e a s e

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MR Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Telephone: (06) 277 7860 Facsimile: (06) 273 4144

MRS 86/96


The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock has called on church leaders not to undermine Australia's ability to respond to refugees.

"I am concerned that well-meaning people will unwittingly compromise Australia's ability to maximise its response to refugees in urgent need of resettlement," Mr Ruddock said.

The Minister's comments follow statements from church leaders demanding that East Timorese asylum seekers be allowed to remain in Australia, even if they have access to the protection of another country. The statements are also in advance of the outcome of Federal Court proceedings examining the issue of refugee status.

"Australia does not have unlimited resources to assist refugees around the world and if we give places to people who already have protection, we are denying places to refugees who have nowhere else to go," Mr Ruddock said.

"The United Nations estimates that 60,000 - 70,000 refugees are in urgent need of resettlement. If Australia cannot respond because it has given places to people with somewhere else to go, those refugees will be left without hope or asylum."

"I have visited the camps in which some of these refugees live and I can only describe their conditions as appalling. They live in fear for their lives and they have no choice as to where they will be resettled."

Mr Ruddock asked people to direct their energy and resources to assisting refugees who have no-one else to turn to.

"On a per capita basis, Australia has resettled more refugees and humanitarian entrants than any other country in the world. If we are to maintain the integrity and humanity of our response, we need to ensure we concentrate our efforts on those with nowhere else to go."

"I would urge people who wish to help refugees to consider how they can assist those who have no other country to turn to."

18 December 1996

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