June 2, 2015 Australia is calling on Southeast Asia to achieve a sustainable solution to the region’s asylum seeker crisis, especially in Myanmar where thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled poverty and persecution.
Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio chief executive Roman Quaedvlieg says Canberra is ready to put its money where its mouth is to support the effort.
Attending a meeting of senior representatives from 17 countries in Bangkok on Friday (May 29, 2015), Mr Quaedvlieg said additional financial support from Australia would come on top of substantial existing assistance.
“Over the next few years we’re contributing $50 million in monies to combat human trafficking in the region,” Mr Quaedvlieg told AAP.
“Australia is also donating $41.9 million to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Indonesia.”
Thousands of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state have fled on boats, including women and children, in the face of long standing persecution only to be gathered up by smuggling gangs.
Hundreds are reported to have perished amid the discovery of mass graves in southern Thailand.
“We are significant donors in terms of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State and we will continue to be generous,” Mr Quaedvlieg said.
“Depending on the outcome of the discussions today (May 29, 2015), there may be further contributions we can make both in terms of advice and any donations that we can make,” he said.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has resisted pleas by international donors for Australia to allow any of the current migrant workers and asylum seekers entry to Australia.
Mr Quaedvlieg said Australia was pressing for a regional solution to the problem.
“What needs to happen here is a coalition of like-minded nations within the region who recognise this is a global problem and deal with a global solution,” he said.
“If we all go away from here recognising that this is a regional problem, that a regional multi-element solution should apply, then that is a good thing.”
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