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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7662

Asylum Seekers

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 21 May 2018 enclosing petition EN0507 concerning the Australian Government's regional processing and settlement arrangements.

As a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol, Australia takes its international obligations seriously. Australia is committed to providing protection to refugees consistent with the obligations set out in the Refugee Convention and other relevant international treaties to which Australia is a party.

With the establishment of Operation Sovereign Borders on 18 September 2013, the Government has focused on disrupting and deterring people smugglers, detecting and intercepting illegal maritime arrivals, and supporting regional processing and resettlement of refugees, as well as returns of those transferees not found to be owed protection. Anyone who comes to Australia illegally by boat will be subject to regional processing arrangements and will not be eligible for permanent residency in Australia.

The Government's Operation Sovereign Borders policies are designed to safeguard vulnerable people from exploitation by people smugglers, prevent the loss of life at sea and restore the integrity of Australia's borders. Restoration of Australia's border integrity has enabled the Government to increase the annual refugee intake. As a result, the Humanitarian Programme has increased from 13,750 in 2016-17 to 16,250 in 2017-18 and will reach 18,750 in 2018-19. Focusing on persecuted minorities, Australia has also welcomed 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict zone on top of this. The ongoing success of these strong border control policies has enabled the closure of 17 domestic immigration detention facilities.

Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) are both signatories to the Refugee Convention.

The Governments of Nauru and PNG are responsible for assessment of protection claims for people transferred to those countries under the regional processing arrangements.

Persons determined by Nauru to be refugees may remain in Nauru for up to 20 years. settle in Cambodia, express an interest in United States (US) resettlement, or move to a country they have the right to reside in.

Persons determined by PNG to be refugees may settle in PNG, express an interest in resettlement, volunteer to move to Nauru to await third country resettlement, or move to a country they have the right to reside in.

Resettlement of refugees from Nauru and PNG in the US commenced in September 2017 and continues in 2018. As at 19 June 2018, 292 refugees from PNG or Nauru have resettled in the US. This arrangement demonstrates the strength of Australia's relationship with the US, and our shared commitment to working together on a range of global refugee and humanitarian issues.

US authorities continue to apply their own rigorous assessment and vetting processes to decide which refugees are eligible for resettlement in the US, and where and when this will take place.

Non-refugees should return home and can access assistance to do so.

Australia appreciates the offer from the New Zealand Government to resettle refugees from regional processing countries however Australia remains focused on concluding the resettlement arrangement with the US. Australia's border protection policies have removed the incentive for people to join dangerous and illegal people smuggling ventures to Australia. They have secured Australia's border and prevented deaths at sea. People smugglers market New Zealand as a destination and New Zealand can be seen as a `back door' to Australia. The Australian Government remains mindful of not un-doing efforts to combat people smuggling.

The Australian Government's border protection policies are here to stay. No-one subject to regional processing arrangements will be resettled in Australia.

Thank you for bringing this petition to my attention.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton