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Transcript of press conference by co-Chairs and participating Ministers: 30 April 2003: Bali Conference, Indonesia.



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E and OE

30 April 2003

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Alexander Downer, MP, Minister for Immigration and Multcultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Reconciliation, Hon Philip Ruddock, MP, Senator the Hon Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice, and Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hassan Wirajuda

Press Conference by co-Chairs and participating Ministers. Bali Conference, Indonesia

Transcription (English only)

Wirajuda: Colleagues, friends and media. The Second Bali Regional Ministers Conference on People Smuggling Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crimes held from 28 to 30 April has just been concluded. The conference endorsed the co-Chairs statement which, I believe, is available for you all. The conference was attended by 32 participating countries from Asia Pacific regions as well as 14 observer countries from different regions such as North America, Europe and Africa. 11 international organisations attended the conference and over 300 participants registered, among them Ministers and Vice Ministers from the Asia Pacific region as well as other regions. Following the first Bali Regional Ministers Conference here in Bali in February last year, two adhoc experts groups which were chaired by Thailand and New Zealand, worked very actively and held a number of meetings, workshops and surveys were held and the results of this process were reported to the Second Bali Ministerial Conference. Indeed, within one year the conference has made remarkable progress and we noted the enthusiasm on the part of participating countries and major organisations. As you know the Bali process was intended to end at this conference, but in our discussions we have agreed that the work of two adhoc expert groups will continue and we have agreed to convene an annual senior officials meeting. We have also agreed to convene a Ministerial Conference within the next two to three years to review the progress of the Bali process and provide further guidance. Indeed, we agreed to continue to work as the problem of illegal migrants is a continuing issue, but we agreed to maintain the momentum and to hold another conference in two or three years time.

Downer: Thank you very much Hassan. Can I just say as the co-Chair of the Second Bali Regional Ministerial Conference how delighted we have been with the success of the conference. This is an incremental process. It has been important to build awareness and build capacities through the Asia Pacific region in order to address the problem of people smuggling and people trafficking. It is going to take more time and more effort. The Bali process has been an essential part of ensuring that the regional community, and that is a fairly broadly defined region, is heavily focussed on this as one of the many issues as a region we do need to address. This time 28 Ministers from 32 countries attended and we were very pleased also to have the presence of the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Lubbers, and also representation from the International Organisation of Migration the IOM. One of the truly important components of this discussion over the last couple of days was the way Ministers came to the view that instead of bringing the Bali process to an end, they

unanimously wanted it to continue. They wanted not just the adhoc experts groups to continue their work and to report to officials in a year’s time, but they wanted the Ministerial involvement to continue as well. We are very encouraged by that, it is a very positive sign because the officials initially had thought that the Ministerial process could come to an end here, but the Ministers themselves unanimously wanted the ministerial process to continue so the Bali process continues and it’s not just a two-off event. I think countries are gaining a great deal from the way the process works in order to try to address this problem as best they can and of course they are having some success in dealing with the problem. Can I thank our co-Chairs and not just the Indonesian Foreign Minister, but his department and the people of Bali for their hospitality. We are delighted to be here and work in this close and cooperative way with our friends and neighbours, the Indonesians. Thank you very much.

Journalist: Can you provide us with a few details. There is report that a second boat of Vietnamese had been found near Flores. Could you just tell us the status of that?

Wirajuda: Frankly, I don’t have any official information yet. I will need to check with my colleagues and the Head of the National Police. But, yes I have heard this unofficially. To us the flow of these boat people from Vietnamese is an anomaly. First following the Bali Conference last year, we noted that there was no new flow of illegal migrants coming to our region and certainly not from, even in the past, Vietnam. I believe, as an anomaly, we can work closely with Australia, but of course also with Vietnam who are active participants in this conference, with a view to returning the boat people back to Vietnam as soon as possible.

Downer: Can I just add that we have been pleased with the way the Indonesian Government has been handling this issue and I want to thank them very much for their continuing cooperation in this area and it is a reflection of the strength of the relationship that we are able to work through these issues as they arise. As the Indonesian Foreign Minister has said, we do regard these particular incidents of the two boats as being somewhat anomalous. The general problem of people smuggling to our region has subsided substantially, but we can never afford to be complacent. We cannot be complacent with any of the problems we have as a region, we just have to keep working at it.

Ruddock: The only other observation I’d make is not to assume that you won’t see opportunistic adventures from time to time. What we know is that the two vessels involved have not been organised people smuggling or trafficking, but rather opportunistic voyages by people who were at previous times, in some cases, in Indonesia and had been returned home to Vietnam. What is quite clear is that we have a situation where there is an issue that will have to be managed. I understand both vessels are essentially immobile and we very much value the cooperation of Indonesia. Might I say that we stand ready to assist in any way that Indonesia sees appropriate.

Indonesian questions and answers

Journalist: …(inaudible)…reference Indonesian people smuggling.

Wirajuda: Yes, I understand that the drafting process is almost complete, but certainly it is the strong desire on the part of the government to complete this process as soon as possible I promise you. We don’t know how long it will take, but there is need strengthen the legal infrastructure including putting in our criminal law provisions on criminality of illegal migrants.

Journalist: …(inaudible)…

Downer: What the Bali process has done is to very effectively ensure that those countries that participate, and we are talking 32 countries at this meeting and a similar number at the first Bali meeting, focus on what measures they need to take to ensure that this people smuggling problem abates and they have been taking measures. Those sorts of measures have also been considered collectively through the two adhoc experts groups. The adhoc experts groups have made recommendations of quite a wide variety spelt out in the Joint Statement by the co-Chairs. Of course, it is up to countries individually in the main to implement those types of recommendations and proposals, but they are gradually doing that. The experts have also been able to produce draft legislation, for example, on criminalising people smuggling. They have been able to provide a great deal of technical advice on how to manage the issue and much more, out of the public gaze. As a result of the Bali process there has been a much greater degree of cooperation between Police and Intelligence services in regional countries in getting them to understand and track down people smuggling activities. You go back two years I don’t think our knowledge, as a region, of how people smuggling rackets actually worked was anything like the knowledge we have today - the people involved, the paths that they use, the methods that they use -we have greatly enhanced knowledge. It is the Bali process which has really provided the framework for this type of cooperation. I think it has been very important to have this region-wide cooperation rather just leave it as a bilateral issue between Australia and Indonesia. There are bilateral aspects to it, but we, both Indonesia and Australia, have very much wanted to focus on this thing as a regional problem which needs a regional solution, not just a bilateral problem that needs bilateral solutions. I think we have been much more effective in getting the region to focus on the issue by using the Bali process than we would have been had we just dealt with each other and that had been the sum total of it. I don’t want to mention the countries by name, but what it has done is given a real focus for countries that might not have thought a great deal about this issue, but which had nevertheless been in some cases transit countries or countries which have been exploited by people smugglers. It has given them a real focus that they have a problem within their countries that needs to be addressed and those countries have been addressing the problem. I mean this is the great strength of the Bali process. The Bali process doesn’t legislate, the Bali process doesn’t force anybody to do anything. What it does do is provide frameworks, it provides context, it provides priority and I think it has been extraordinarily successful and in fact, it has been one of the more successful endeavours that Australia and Indonesia collectively have undertaken.

Ruddock: If I may just complement the answers that have been given with some measurable outcomes because I think it is important that there is no one answer -there are a range of measures that are implemented. If you look at the outcome and in Australia we have been saying there have been no boat arrivals for 18 months of substance. In relation to Indonesia, what Foreign Minister Wirajuda was saying, was that there has been no replenishment in Indonesia of further unlawful arrivals looking to be trafficked or having been trafficked here. If you actually look at the numbers of people in Indonesia that have been here and have been in the hands of the International Organisation for Migration arranging for their return home or have been assessed by the UNHCR, we are now dealing with very modest numbers because there has been no replenishment and the circumstances of those people who are here are being resolved. None of that has happened by accident. If you look at other regions in the world, the degree of cooperation that has been achieved here that is evidenced by this process is really quite unique for this region in terms of the results that have been achieved and quite different to what you are seeing elsewhere.

Journalist: …(inaudible)…

Ruddock: I don’t think it is pushing the problem elsewhere. It demonstrates to other

regions that if they have a determination to deal with it there are a range of measures that are open to them.

Downer: I think that is the key point. I mean, we see this as a problem as a region. We want to address it as a region. We cannot speak for every other part of the world. Our advice to other countries outside of the region is that they need to manage this issue just as we do. Nobody that I have ever come across wants to encourage this grizzly trade of people smuggling. I think in the last four or five years many countries have been wrestling with this, trying to work out what to do about it, and quite a lot of high profile, fierce even, debates within countries about how to manage this issue. The one interesting thing is that now, particularly in the last 18 months, there is a growing global consensus that this is a problem and it needs to be dealt with. We shouldn’t be naive in how we handle it. Other countries outside the region, for example the European Union, are now starting to handle these issues much more effectively and we have had, by the way, extremely good relations with the European Commission and some of the individual member states of the European Union in addressing this issue with the United Kingdom, the Germans and so on, but importantly with the European Commission. I can see a real sea change in Europe in how they address this issue as well.

Indonesian questions and answers

Wirajuda: In 1999 we had in Indonesia 3832 illegal migrants. Now 478 individuals remain in Indonesia, among them 600 have voluntarily returned to Afghanisation.

Indonesian questions and answers

Press Conference ends

Supplementary questions from Indonesian and Australian journalists.

Journalist: …(inaudible)…Aceh?

Downer: That’s ultimately an internal matter for Indonesia to resolve and we hope that it will be possible to get back on to the diplomatic path to resolve it, but we offer no gratuitous advice to the Indonesian Government on how to manage this issue, except to say that we hope it can be managed.

Journalist: …(inaudible)…

Downer: We hope it will be resolved in a diplomatic, peaceful and constructive way. The process has taken a setback recently and we hope that the negotiations will resume before too long.

Journalist: …(inaudible)…the boat in Flores?

Downer: We understand that the boat has come to an island in the Flores region and Indonesian authorities and the International Organisation of Migration are going to meet up with the people from the boat. The OIM and the Indonesians will process them in the appropriate way.

Ruddock: The only point I’d make is that I understand that this vessel is not fit for further travel.

Journalist: It says on the Antara wire that in fact the reason that they have been prevented from going further, at least not assisted to go further, is because of an agreement with the Australian Police.

Downer: Not a formal agreement, a written agreement, no. But we obviously made contact with the Indonesians some time ago about these boats and we explained yesterday, and maybe the day before as well, that we want to handle this in a low key way and we are very happy with the way the Indonesians have handled it. They are also having discussions, we understand, with the Vietnamese about it as the people involved are Vietnamese and they will want to have those people repatriated to Vietnam. But I am very, very happy about the way the Indonesians have handled it, but we are for our part very consciously handling this in a low key way and we have found that to be the most effective way of managing these issues with Indonesia.

Journalist: But you have known about it for a couple of days?

Downer: You mean about exactly where it is and what happened?

Journalist: Yes.

Downer: A couple of days I suppose, a day or two. Yes I must say I was aware yesterday.

Ruddock: There may have been …(inaudible)…

Journalist: You are entirely confident…?

Downer: I was entirely confident. Remember I have been at lunches and dinners with the Indonesian Foreign Minister for the last two days.

Journalist: But, you knew it had been shipwrecked somewhere….

Downer: I don’t remember exactly when I found out all of the details, but obviously for some time we have been talking to the Indonesians about these boats, starting with our embassy well before I got here. Our embassy has been talking with Indonesian authorities about them and they have been responding appropriately. We are happy with the way they have handled it.

Journalist: There is no word of further boats coming from Vietnam?

Downer: Haven’t heard of any, no. Do I know something I am not passing around? No I don’t.

ENDS