Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Commission A: Migration: ensuring access, dignity, respect for diversity

and social inclusion

Statement by Mr Hugh Watson, Executive Officer,

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia

29 November 2011

Chair,

Australia is a nation built on migration, and we have a strong appreciation of the benefits that it can bring. Our experience convinces us that well managed migration is the best way to ensure the greatest benefits for all, including migrants, and to minimise the negative consequences of migration, that can leave migrants vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance.

We have found this approach to be the best way to protect both the human rights of migrants, and the legitimate interests of states. When states are able to facilitate legal migration, the scope for exploitation of migrants by people smugglers, traffickers and unscrupulous employers is vastly diminished, and the risk that migrants will be left in need of humanitarian assistance is minimised.

Our overall approach to migration is underpinned by cooperation, both with other states, and with stakeholders such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

As you have already heard from the President of the Australian Red Cross, Mr Greg Vickery, the Government of Australia has a positive and productive working relationship with the Australian Red Cross in the field of migration. This spans a number of activities and programmes – from provision of community assistance to migrants who find themselves in a vulnerable situation, to the delivery of projects which aim to achieve tolerance and harmony in the community.

For example, the Australian government has managed, in partnership with the Australian Red Cross, an expanded Residence Determination program, to progressively move significant numbers of children and vulnerable family groups out of immigration detention facilities and into community-based accommodation, allowing children and their families to live in and move about the community. The Australian Red Cross acts as the lead agency for this program and the funding provided to the Red Cross includes costs such as housing, residential and out-of-home care for unaccompanied minors, case workers and an allowance to meet daily living costs.

We have no doubt that our partnership with the ARC is making a significant contribution towards improving the situation of migrants who may for a variety of reasons find themselves vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance.

This in turn complements our overarching approach to migration, which is to maximise its benefits to all, including migrants, and mitigate its negative consequences.

Thank you.