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Philip Ruddock press conference

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Ruddock: Nice to see you all hear today ... well look thank you all very much for coming here this morning. I just wanted to make clear the situation in relation to the Kosovo's who have been subject of an evacuation to Australia. In the context of the promising situation that has emerged over night in. Now obviously there is a long way to go, before we know whether we have a peaceful situation in Kosovo, obviously I'm

not in a position to comment on those matters and they're very much out of my hands, but the signs are very optimistic, and people are asking what will happen in relation to the Kosovo's who are here in Australia. And people are asking what will happen, they have a visa for 3 months and of course they have been the subject of an evacuation which was to provide not only for their safety but their continued care and support, until

they are able to return to their homes.

Now the situation does look promising, but reports suggest that as much as 70 or 80% of the infrastructure in Kosovo could have been destroyed. The expectation that people will be able to return promptly or almost immediately would be unrealistic, we will be consulting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in relation to the way in which any return will be conducted. W e will obviously be cognisant of the

situation in Kosovo as that return is effected and I will have some further comments to make on those matters in time. Can I finally say in relation to evacuation about 2500 people have been brought to Australia. Of that 2500 people most of them are located in

Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia and NSW, we are continuing to evacuate people, we have selected numbers of people, that evacuation will for the time being continue. .

I do anticipate as news of the peace settlement if it's confirmed spreads that numbers of people may decide to stay closer to home but there is no indication yet that will be the case, but it is certainly what I would anticipate and we will be flexible in relation to those matters and Australia has been generous in relation to the way in which it has dealt with these questions. The prospect of peace at this time makes the evacuation more likely to be, to have been the appropriate and measured response to the situation but we will

continue to put in place a program which meets the needs of those people whom we've desired to help and assist.

Question: At this stage is there anytime frame ....(inaudible)

Ruddock: No, I mean that's the point I'm making we will consult with the UNHCR about when the circumstances permit for that to happen if you've got such a large part of infrastructure destroyed it may not be able to happen as soon as we would like

Question: You say evacuations are continuing does that mean Australia will still be accepting more refugees or more Kosovars


# Ruddock: It means the evacuations about which I was speaking were the evacuations ^ by Australia

Question: When's the next due in Australia

Ruddock: Well the last arrived I think on Wednesday evening and they're arriving about every 5 days, and I’ve outlined the program now as to where people were going to be settled there were further places at Singleton that yet have to be filled. There are places at Bandiana In Victoria and also at Portsea and I think that will just about

conclude the placements

Question: Are there any provisions in place should there be a peaceful reconciliation of some sort I mean do we have an idea of how a return might be organised?

Ruddock: Well we would organise the return I mean some people were asking the question when it is safe for us to return how are we going to get back home. Well obviously we’ve evacuated people to Australia on a temporary basis we're not going to leave them in the lurch in relation to that matter we will facilitate their return. Can I say in relation to the Australian Public Service, the Department of Immigration has asked to

manage this evacuation, it did so in I think an extraordinarily professional way with co­ operation of other government departments and we ought to be very proud of what we were able to achieve In a very short period of time and In a very professional way.

Question: Will you be taking them back or will you be giving them some financial assistance to help them re-establish themselves?

Ruddock: Well the financial support that is given by Australia has largely been through the UNHCR and the support that the international community gives to the rebuilding process will be support that is designed to ensure that people are treated justly and fairly and the costs of re-establishment are going to be there for 800,000 who have

been displaced and many others that have been displaced internally, that would suggest to me that it is highly unlikely that we would be providing additional support outside of the framework of International support that we would undoubtedly be joining.

Question: Are you concerned that the longer these people stay the more likely they are to want to stay permanently

Ruddock: Look it has always been the case that such claims were possible and that's one of the reasons we put in place legislation to put beyond doubt what was our expectation. If people were going to be allowed to stay longer that was a decision that the minister would make and I've made it clear that our support has been for the

international objective in ensuring that people were able to return home. And that was to make abundantly dear that if you're going to clear a people on the basis of their ethnicity out of their homes out of their country that that objective will not work and ultimately the wider purpose is best served by Australia joining in the effort to assist

people in being able to re-establish their lives back home

Q u e stio n : There's and unconfirmed report in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning that another refugee boat may have been sighted off the coast

Ruddock: Well they're obviously unconfirmed reports aren t they.