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Minister discusses resettlement of refugees on Nauru.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Department of the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in any other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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AM

Monday 8 April 2002

 

Minister discusses resettlement of refugees on Nauru

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: As Labor contemplates its great immigration idea, a decision is due this week on ho w many of the more than eleven hundred asylum seekers on the Pacific Island State of Nauru meet refugee criteria.  

 

They’re part of the Federal Governments’ "Pacific Solution", among them some who were deflected from Australian shores from the Norwegian ship the Tampa last year.  

 

The issues are where do the duly determined refugees then go and what happens if they have no destination when Australia’s agreement with Nauru expires at the end of next month.  

 

Joining us on the line this morning is the Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock. Good morning Mr Ruddock. 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Good morning. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Before we get to Nauru can I ask you about the merits of Craig Emerson’s proposals? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well I’ll get him briefing on the way in which the Immigration Programme operates now. I think if you’re going to start to talk about how programmes might operate in terms of getting a better regional dispersal, it’s important to have a knowledge of the way in which programmes endeavour to achieve that.  

 

Essentially there are two factors that will determine where people settle. Existing family linkages and a job, and we use both of those mechanisms now to get a better dispersal of the Migration Programme.  

 

The way in which we do it for family reunion is in the Australian Skill Link Category where you get extra points if family members have already lived a substantial period of time in a regional centre and it gets people over the line if they are very close in terms of the number of points that they need. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Is there scope to improve that encouragement in any way do you think? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well we had a Parliamentary Committee look at these issues last year and it was a bipartisan committee of Liberal and Labor members and I sought from them any suggestions they had as to ways and means in which we might improve these mechanisms to have them operate more effectively and most of the comments that were made were fairly superficial and when I say superficial, I mean the idea that you can compel people to live in particular areas is of course in an anathema with most Australians.  

 

Incentives need to be of a character that will keep people there and nothing’s been suggested in Mr Emerson’s comments about the nature of incentives that would do that.  

 

As I say at the moment we do have very significant regional employment initiatives so that people are able to take up jobs in regional centres. They can be sponsored by local employers to take up those particular positions, they are fast-tracked now and something like four thousand people have come to Australia under those sorts of arrangements which are working. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Mr Ruddock can I ask you then about Nauru those who will, well who, we assume some of them will be determined as refugees. Do you know exactly where they will go once they receive those determinations? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well what I can confirm is that the processing of claims for something like four hundred and forty of those in off-shore centres will be handed down during this week.  

 

Now there are various processes that will follow from that. Those who get adverse decisions will be able to have them looked at again. Those who are found to be refugees will be available for resettlement.  

 

Now we’ve indicated that Australia will play its part in relation to resettlement. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: How many would we take? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well it’s not a question of how many we would take at this stage, it’s a question that we will be reasonable in relation to that and I’m exploring with other countries as in the UNHCR, their willingness to participate in resettling.  

 

There have been some positive indications from a number of countries already and it’s certainly our view that there needs to be burden sharing in relation to the way in which this task is undertaken. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: So positive indications from other countries, nothing nailed down yet from any other countries? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well there are some indications from countries as to the sorts of numbers that they would be prepared to look at and I will be involved in discussions in the next few weeks with other countries in relation to what they may or may not be able to do.  

 

But I mean the important point here, I mean you’ve put this issue in terms of a timetable as to what we have to do, we’re under no obligation to find resettlement places in a particular timeframe.  

 

These people are safe and secure now and while we’re working those issues through, which we will be, I don’t think it’s a question of saying can you do it in this particular timeframe and how many are going to be taken here and how many are going to be taken there. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Except that you will run out of time with Nauru by the end of May won’t you? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: We will continue to talk to Nauru about the arrangements and I am sure as they see numbers of people being resettled we’ll be able to work those matters through. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: So Nauru hasn’t indicated that it is willing or is not willing to extend the arrangements? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: Well Nauru has indicated that it has an expectation that we will be using our best endeavours, which will be to work these matters through. We’ve given them certain assurances and we believe that we will be able to work those issues through quite satisfactorily with Nauru. We’ve been able to do it up until now and I’m sure it will continue. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: So with a month and a half to go before that deadline runs out with Nauru you still haven’t got them nailed down, you haven’t got other countries nailed down? 

 

PHILIP RUDDOCK: You’re putting it in terms of nailing down and in terms of certain timetables. I’m saying this is an issue in which there will be decisions taken, some people will be found to be refugees, some will get resettlement outcomes in Australia and some will be looking for resettlement outcomes further abroad. We will be arranging those matters and I’m sure we’ll be able to work it through in a way which will meet both ours and Nauru’s requirements. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Ok Philip Ruddock the Immigration Minister, thanks for your time this morning.