Speech at President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees

September 21, 2016



The number of displaced people worldwide is now as we have heard at the highest level since the aftermath of World War II.

I commend President Obama and thank him for bringing us together to make new pledges of commitments to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

We have heard speeches, presentations today from leaders of some of the countries that are in the very front line - from Lebanon, from Turkey, from Jordan, from Cameroon and others - and listening to them is very humbling, recognising the scale of the challenge that they face.

It causes us to conclude, I believe, that this complex crisis requires a full spectrum of responses. As leaders, we are responsible for helping those who are most vulnerable, and restoring the integrity of migration systems.

Australia’s approach is to be both principled and pragmatic. Our strategy addresses all parts of the problem – employing strong border protection policies, a very tough stance on people smugglers, while tackling the causes of displacement, with a generous and compassionate resettlement program supporting refugees in our communities.

I wish to highlight two areas of action - dual objectives - for my fellow leaders to consider.

First, we need to do more to address the underlying causes of displacement – conflict, instability, and other vulnerabilities – including providing more assistance, and opportunity, as close to home as possible.

That is why Australia recently announced a $220 million Australian dollar commitment to help the humanitarian and resilience needs in Syria and its neighbouring countries.

And I can announce that Australia will commit an additional $130 million Australian dollars over the next three years in support of peacebuilding and assistance to refugees, forcibly displaced communities and host countries. This multi-year commitment will give greater certainty to aid delivery organisations and facilitate longer-term planning.

Second, we must have strong border protection policies that put the people smugglers out of business. We are all too familiar with the tragedy of lost lives at sea and on land caused by those so immoral that they are willing to traffic and exploit human desperation.

Strong borders are not just about security. They are crucial to ensuring social harmony and public support for migration domestically, as we have heard from one speaker after another today.

Australia is a prime example. Securing our borders has increased public confidence and enabled Australia to have one of the world’s most generous humanitarian systems.

Australia's program of permanent refugee resettlement is the third largest in the world.

I am pleased to announce that Australia’s planned increase to almost 19,000 places from mid-2018 will be maintained at this level. This, in addition to the 12,000 places we have committed for refugees from Syria and Iraq. And these commitments should be considered in the context of our national population of 24 million.

We will also participate in the US-led program to resettle Central American refugees currently in a resettlement centre in Costa Rica.

Australians support these actions because they have confidence that our migration system is well managed. This confidence is a key pillar on which our successful multicultural society is built.

This is the pragmatic and compassionate approach Australia takes to this crisis. We encourage all nations to focus on practical, long-term solutions to this global problem.

I look forward to working with you all.

Thank you.


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