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High Commissioner at Bali conference

Briefing notes

High Commissioner at Bali conference

29 April 2003

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers is in Bali for a conference on people smuggling, trafficking and transnational crime.

In remarks today to the ministerial-level meeting, the High Commissioner stressed that without proper protection for refugees in regions of origin and the promise of longer-term solutions, they will continue to fall prey to criminal networks. In short, people smugglers and traffickers profit from the lack of solutions for victims of violence and discrimination. Lacking protection and durable solutions in regions of origin, many refugees choose to move elsewhere in search of their own solutions.

The High Commissioner outlined UNHCR's proposals for addressing these so-called secondary movements. These include what Mr. Lubbers terms "Convention Plus," under which special agreements can be drawn up between countries/regions of origin, transit and final destination to help in resolving "secondary movement" situations. For example, a comprehensive plan of action was adopted by the international community two decades ago to address the problem of Indochinese boat-people.

He told the meeting that Convention Plus is basically about sharing responsibilities rather than trying to shift them to others. He said it's important that the desire of individual states to reduce the number of asylum seekers not be pursued at the expense of neighbours or of the international community. Sharing includes providing support to host countries so that refugees don't feel compelled to move on; ensuring that when refugees finally can go home, that they get the help they need to make it sustainable; and - when they can't go home - providing resettlement opportunities or support for local integration in first-asylum countries.

Solutions for refugees and burden sharing are not only a humanitarian and political challenge, he said. It is also about fighting crime.

In addition to participating in the conference, the High Commissioner is having a series of bilateral meetings with participating governments, including Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand, on the issue of refugee protection within the broader dynamics of irregular migration. He returns to Geneva on Thursday.