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Conference encourages a regional approach to refugees and displaced persons

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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 2 6 00

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

MRS 81/96


Representatives from 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have begun a two-day conference in Canberra on refugees and displaced persons. The conference is being co­ hosted by Australia and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, who will deliver the opening address, said the global movement of refugees and displaced persons had grown in complexity in recent years.

"Our region, which contains half of the world's population, is fortunate that it is not currently experiencing major movements of refugees and displaced persons," Mr Ruddock said.

"It is therefore timely for us to discuss past experiences and to examine avenues for enhancing understanding of major people movements in the region for future cooperation," he said.

Mr Ruddock said that throughout the world there had been a growing trend towards developing regionally specific approaches to refugees and displaced persons, such as the Asia-Pacific region's co-operative approach to the outflow of people from Indo-China.

"When faced with the large movement of Indo-Chinese in the late 1980s, the region responded with the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) which introduced a screening mechanism for asylum seekers, the resettlement of refugees in countries such as Australia, and the return to countries of origin of those determined not to be refugees. The CPA has now ended.

"I am confident this conference will be the starting point for continuing cooperation and dialogue on issues affecting refugees and displaced persons in this region," Mr Ruddock said.

The Minister welcomed the role played by the UNHCR in co-hosting the conference.

The UNHCR delegation will be led by its Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, Mr Francois Fouinat. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will be represented by its Director of External Relations Mr Peter Schatzer.

Countries participating in the conference include: Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, the Union of Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

28 November 1996

Media inquiries: Steve Ingram 0419 278 715 (06)277 7860 Lynne Adams (06) 264 2028