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Agreement reached at Regional Ministerial Conference.



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MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA28 28 February 2002

AGREEMENT REACHED AT REGIONAL MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE

I am pleased to announce that the Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime has achieved firm agreement for the region to improve cooperation to combat people smuggling.

Ministers representing 36 countries from the region, including countries of origin, transit and destination, reaffirmed the region’s shared interest and common purpose in addressing people smuggling issues comprehensively and coherently.

They joined Australia and Indonesia in agreeing that the region could not stand by while people smugglers decided who would illegally enter our countries.

Ministers agreed with Australia’s concerns that countries in the region must develop practical cooperative measures to prevent, intercept and disrupt these illegal activities.

Ministers also joined with Australia on the importance of adopting and strengthening legislation to criminalise people smuggling and trafficking.

Ministers at the Conference agreed on cooperative action that will promote collaboration in practical fields such as law-enforcement, border management and return arrangements to tackle the activities of people smugglers.

As Co-Chair of the Regional Conference, I, along with Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Hassan Wirajuda, issued a Co-Chairs’ Statement that reaffirms the commitment of ministerial participants to address smuggling activities.

The Conference agreed to the establishment of experts’ groups that will promote practical regional cooperation and report to a follow-up ministerial meeting in 12 months time.

Ministers agreed that the Conference marks a new phase in regional cooperation and in the fight against people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. It also underscores the close contact and effective collaboration we have achieved with Indonesia to address these issues.

Media inquiries: Matt Francis (Ministerial) 0419 206 890 Nicole Guihot (Departmental) 0407 710 374