Fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference - Opening Session Remarks

Speech. Check against delivery, E&OE

30 March 2011

Thank you very much Pak Marty. If I could join you in welcoming all of our distinguished delegates here to Bali to this fourth conference dealing with people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crimes.

This is a good gathering of countries from across our wider region and my co-chair and I welcome greatly the representation we have from across the region based on a collective recognition that this is a problem not just for one of us, not just for two of us, but is a problem for all of us to deal with.

And the fact that you are here and the fact that your officials have participated so vigorously in the preparations of the documents before us, reinforces the resolve of this group of states to take this agenda robustly forward into the future.

I would, Pak Marty, also particularly express my thanks to the officials who have worked on this process so assiduously. This is difficult work, it is complex work, it is hard work. And for those officials who have engaged in so many of the preparatory meetings, so many of the ad hoc working groups, so many of the other official related activities, if I could pass on my deep appreciation for the work that you have done together.

The issues that we face in this regional conference are not new, they are however of increasing complexity for all of us. Let us step back just for one moment to reflect on where our region sits in the middle of the global challenge that we face in people smuggling, in human trafficking and associated transnational crime.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that there were 43.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide as the end of 2009. This is the highest number since the mid 1990s.

Secondly, of these 43.3 million, 15.2 million were refugees. These are very large numbers for the international community to deal with. There are also large numbers of people around the world affected by the scourge of human trafficking.

In terms of associated transnational crime, I was in conversation this morning with our colleague from the International Office of Migration, who mentioned to me that currently worldwide transnational crime represents a business of $650 billion a year, $650 billion a year.

And within that $650 billion dollars of illegal activity, the third largest crime is people smuggling and human trafficking. This is an important global challenge, it is an important regional challenge, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Here within our own region, we're advised that displaced persons represent some 3.9 million refugees among us. This is also therefore a core challenge for our region and for all countries within it. If we go through simply some of the challenges which the states around this conference table are facing, they are significant.

Pakistan hosts approximately 1.7 million refugees, Iran hosts over 1 million refugees, some 115,000 asylum seekers and refugees are in Thailand. Malaysia hosts nearly 100,000 asylum seekers and refugees. Indonesia faces significant numbers of irregular migrants transiting through its territory.

The point of these numbers is to illustrate the core fact: this is a challenge for all of us and therefore a regional solution is inescapable to the challenges that we face.

Of course, in doing so, I would like to commend the actions, not just of individual states as we bring our efforts together across these challenges but also that we've been aided significantly in doing so by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization of Migration (IOM). Both of whom are represented at most senior levels here today at this conference and we welcome them.

In 2010 and 2011 we have landmark years for these institutions. They mark the 60th anniversary of the convention of the state as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and the 60th anniversary of the International Organization for Migration. These are two great international institutions who assist regional efforts across the world including here in our own region to deal with this challenge.

Again I was reminded by the IOM today when we think in this room that our challenges are unique. You reminded me that this regional gathering is one of 15 regional processes underway around the world, one of 15 regional processes underway around the world.

Again, this underlines the fact that no individual state can deal with these problems independently. We are relied upon one another and more broadly the international community, to deliver effective solutions to the future. These are by definition transnational problems.

Let us reflect on one other region where this is occurring right now. And I refer to the developments in the Middle East more broadly and Libya in particular. The recent unrest in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrates how quickly new and entirely unanticipated population movements can occur. According to the office of the UNHCR as of 21 March this year some 170,000 people had cross the Libyan border into Tunisia and 143,000 people had entered Egypt. Initially the majority are Egyptian mixed with a large numbers of 1 million sub-Saharan Africans working in Libya prior to the unrest.

More recently we have the majority leaving being Libyan nationals themselves. UNHCR advises us that some one and a half thousand to two and half thousand people are crossing the border from Libya each day. This problem was entirely unanticipated six months ago. This problem was largely unanticipated three months ago, is a problem today, which the entire international community must face.

It therefore reminds us as we contemplate our challenges in this region the challenges we face are dynamic and not static. We cannot assume that the challenges that we've had to confront the last decade will remain static for the next decade. There will be new source countries, there will be new transit countries, there will be new destination countries and all the associated problems of protection arising from each.

Of course when it comes to the particular situation in Libya, dealing with these new challenges and international community require our collective efforts as well, including beyond this region. Australia is proud of the fact that we are currently the third largest humanitarian donor to the efforts being made on the ground in Libya by IOM, UNHCR and the other humanitarian agencies; the third largest after the United States and the European Union. We have global responsibilities including those within our own region.

While emergency flows can abate over time, history tells us that others will inevitably occur and we need to cooperate to establish more effective ways of dealing with these challenges in the future.

These are problems for the international community, they are problems for regional communities of states, they are problems for individual sovereign states, they are also problems for individual members of the human family, deep, personal, challenging problems.

I commend your attention when you have a moment to go to the IOM website and look at the story of Zamina.

Zamina, 17 years old, lacks most of the things of a young woman of her age could expect such as a home, family and friends. Human traffickers exploited vulnerabilities in Zamina's circumstances following the death of her parents. She was sold into a marriage by surviving relatives, she was then forced into prostitution and attempted drug trafficking by her husband. It was only through exercising the courage to escape that Zamina has been able to forge a new life.

It is Zamina's story and tens and hundreds of thousands of stories like hers that provide a personal individual reminder to each of us as representatives of governments, that we must do everything possible within our capacity as states to stop the pernicious trade of human trafficking and smuggling of people.

We must strengthen measures to prevent trafficking in persons and to investigate and to punish perpetrators with the full force of the law. This is an ugly crime.

Distinguished colleagues, I look forward to exploring today ways in which we can better cooperate to combat trafficking in persons and to prevent as much as possible stories such as Zamina's being told again and again in the international community.

Here at this conference we have a broad agenda it deals with people smuggling it deals with human trafficking but we must also be mindful of the broader frame of international transnational crime which underpins both these endeavours.

To date much of the work of the Bali Process has been focused on law enforcement and border security cooperation. This has been good in practical work and we have more to do.

We are focused so far on the importance of developing and implementing effective legislation, criminalising people smuggling and human trafficking activity. Through the Bali Process we have a form of model legislation which is being developed to make an important contribution in these criminalisation efforts across various participating states. This model legislation remains available on the Bali Process website.

Second, our efforts are also focused on document and visa integrity. These have been a course vital to our cooperation; for example officials at the workshop on passport integrity in Kuala Lumpur in July of 2010 conducted exercises using international civil aviation organisation assessment tools, to identify and mitigate risks in their passport issues and processes. As a consequence of these efforts, better passport governance regimes are increasingly being implemented across our region. This again is practical work between us.

Thirdly, through the Bali Process we have also emphasised law enforcement cooperation, a vital component to the Bali Process of engagement. In strong measures due to Bali Process initiatives we have seen a dramatic growth in cooperation among law enforcement agencies within states and between states and our wider region. Sharing information of people engaged in people smuggling, human trafficking and promoting the best strategies with dealing with these scourges.

Fourthly, the Bali Process members have also demonstrated their willingness to address the plight of victims, the victims of people smuggling, the victims of human traffickers. This is an important dimension of our work here.

To this end ad hoc group members have increasingly turned their attention to issues of protection, of resettlement, of repatriation and reintegration as a means of addressing irregular people movements. The work of the ad hoc group has made it clear that it will be increasingly important for governments to seek a balance between managing border security concerns on the one hand and protection issues on the other.

In the ad hoc group we believe there is a growing consensus in the Bali Process that these measures alone are not sufficient and that broader solutions such as the development also of a regional framework approach addressing irregular migrants, humanitarian and protection needs is required.

My colleague and the Head of the Australian Delegation, Immigration Minister Bowen, will elaborate later this morning on Australia's vision for an effective regional cooperation framework. One of the challenges we face in our region is of course inconsistency of approach between countries in the assessment of asylum seekers. And in the provision of durable solutions and the repatriation, reintegration of those not in need of international protection. This is not a challenge unique to this region, it is reflected in regions across the world where often we have a problem of people going from one country to another because of inconsistency of approaches.

Those found to be refugees have limited opportunities for permanent protection outcomes and many find themselves living in protracted unsatisfactory situations. For those ultimately found not to be refugees the option of repatriation is not always available. And where it is available it is not always sustainable and we see people in the region who have become displaced a number of times.

Secondary movement across countries in the region is a particular challenge. Many asylum seekers move irregularly across a range of countries in the hope of having their asylum claims assessed quickly and obtaining a permanent outcome.

Therefore we have further work to do. Therefore the work that we embrace today in terms of a possible regional framework agreement is of critical importance.

UNHCR continues to provide useful guidance towards this goal through its recently released policy paper on a regional cooperative approach to addressing refugees, asylum seekers and irregular movement. That paper was welcomed by participants of the Bali Process ad hoc group meeting in Manila last November.

Colleagues, distinguished representatives, here in our region our officials have made great progress on the content of a possible regional cooperation framework. And again I would thank them for their excellent work in the lead up to this conference.

First, what we have before us today are the core principles of a regional cooperation framework with the objective of breaking the people smuggling business model.

Second, if we agree on this regional cooperation framework we'll be the first region in the world to do so.

Third, such a regional cooperation document for the first time would give us a framework within which individual countries can agree new anti-people smuggling arrangements between them, including the possibility of a regional centre or regional centres to deal with the problem.

Distinguished representatives, distinguished colleagues, that is the challenge which lies before us today. I conclude by saying this, people smuggling is one part of our challenge in this Bali Process. Human trafficking is another part of the challenge we face in the Bali Process. But as I've discussed with many of you as colleagues in the lead up to the session this morning, so too is the wider challenge of related transnational crime.

All these three challenges are related, all of these three challenges impact potentially on the sovereignty of our states. All of these three challenges potentially impact on the stability of our regional order.

Therefore, distinguished colleagues, distinguished representatives, it is important that at this Bali conference we take a strong step forward and agree on the elements and the contents of a regional framework agreement to push back this tide and the scourge of people smuggling and human trafficking and further the regional cooperation that we've achieved so far through this Bali Process.

Pak Marty I thank you for Indonesia's active co-chairmanship of this process and I now turn to you to resume chairmanship of this morning's session.

END

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