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UN refugee chief lauds resettlement efforts made by Australia, New Zealand

UN refugee chief lauds resettlement efforts made by Australia, New Zealand

High Commissioner António Guterres with Australia's Minister for Immigration Chris Evans.
The top United Nations refugee official has paid tribute to both Australia and New Zealand for the reception and services they provide to those forced to escape their own countries.

António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is in New Zealand today on the second leg of his trip to the Antipodes, where he has been discussing refugee issues with government officials, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and refugees themselves.

“Australia has one of the best refugee resettlement programmes in the world,” Mr. Guterres said on Monday during a visit to the Fairfield Migrant Resource Centre in Sydney after conveying the same message to the Minister for Immigration, Chris Evans, in Canberra.

“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,” added the High Commissioner, who visited refugee communities in Sydney and Melbourne at the beginning of the week.

He said that he looked forward to “continued and close cooperation with the government and civil society to help refugees here and worldwide.”

Earlier this week, Australia announced that it will increase its aid budget by almost one third this year for international refugee resettlement efforts ahead of a speech by Mr. Guterres about the importance of government and donors maintaining generous support for humanitarian projects in the face of the global financial crisis.

“New Zealand resettles around 750 refugees and provides additional sponsored family reunification for 300 family members of refugees each year,” the High Commissioner noted before leaving Australia yesterday, 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.”