UNHCR chief praises Australia's refugee resettlement services

News Stories, 25 February 2009

© UNHCR/B.Farrell
High Commissioner António Guterres with Australia's Minister for Immigration Chris Evans after their meeting in Canberra.

SYDNEY, Australia, February 25 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres paid tribute on Wednesday to Australia for the welcome and services it provides to refugees in communities around the nation.

"Australia has one of the best refugee resettlement programmes in the world," Guterres said during a visit to the Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre in Sydney, adding that he had conveyed this message to Minister for Immigration Chris Evans during a meeting on Monday in Canberra.

"It has been wonderful to speak to refugees and former refugees about their experiences since being welcomed to Australia," added the High Commissioner, who on Tuesday visited refugee communities in Sydney and Melbourne. "Australia has a proud history of welcoming refugees into the community, and that has been reflected in many of the personal stories I have heard."

Guterres said he looked forward to "continued and close cooperation with the government and civil society to help refugees here and worldwide." He was due to make an address later Wednesday about the importance of government and donors maintaining generous support for humanitarian projects in the face of the global financial crisis. Australia announced on Monday that it will increase its aid to international efforts to resettle refugees this fiscal year by almost a third.

The High Commissioner was due to leave Australia late Wednesday for New Zealand, where he will discuss refugee issues with government officials and non-governmental organizations. New Zealand is also a resettlement country.

"New Zealand resettles around 750 refugees and provides additional sponsored family reunification for 300 family members of refugees each year," Guterres noted, while adding that the country "has an excellent reputation for welcoming refugees and assisting them with the education, health and other services they need to make a new and successful life."