ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Asia-Pacific countries reach accord on human trafficking
Foreign ministers attending the Bali Process meeting have agreed on a regional framework to combat human trafficking in the Asia-Pacific region.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, co-chairing the meeting, said the framework marked a significant step forward because it considered the interests of the trafficking victims’ countries of origin, countries of transit and destination countries.
“This will allow a more effective channel for interested parties to work together to combat people-trafficking networks in the region,” he said.
He also said the framework, though nonbinding, would allow countries in the region to resolve issues of illegal immigration in a systematic and contextual way.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, the meeting’s other co-chair, said the agreement on the framework marked a historic milestone in regional efforts to work together to tackle people-smuggling.
Of the 1 billion people worldwide currently involved in some kind of migration, he said, 41 million were being forcibly moved and 15.9 million were displaced. The issue of people smuggling had been tabled at 15 earlier summits, including previous Bali Process meetings, Rudd added.
With the framework agreed on, “the Bali Process now has a big challenge ahead of it in addressing this problem,” he said.
Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen welcomed the framework as a potential reference for developing a refugee processing center for the region.
“Of course, we’ve always said East Timor would be the focus of our discussion [on a processing center],” he said. “Today marks an important step in developing discussions and setting the framework as a reference for further bilateral talks.”
The Australian government has tried for the past nine months to persuade East Timor to host a regional refugee processing center. Despite Dili reiterating it does not have the capacity for such a facility, Bowen was hopeful the center could go ahead, saying the two countries were still in talks.
“There’s a range of views in East Timor’s government on how to handle it,” he said. “It’s a controversial issue in East Timor, as you would expect.
“Certainly the communication we received from the highest levels of the East Timorese government is that discussions should continue, not underestimating the difficulty of those discussions for East Timor and the controversial nature of them in East Timor.”
Rudd was more cautious, saying: “In our discussions with the vice foreign minister of East Timor [Alberto Xavier Pereira Carlos], he indicated that this matter had yet to be deliberated upon by the council of ministers in East Timor, so we will await the outcome of those deliberations.”
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