Media Release: Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Simon Crean MP.
29 December, 2009
Forced return of Lao Hmong
Australia is deeply concerned by the deportation of Lao Hmong from Thailand to Laos.
Among them are 158 Lao Hmong from the Nong Khai detention centre in Thailand. These individuals have been recognised as refugees by UNHCR.
Australia and a number of other countries have agreed to accept these refugees for resettlement.
Australia’s position had always been that these refugees should have been resettled in Australia and other receiving countries directly from Thailand, consistent with international norms, notably the principle of non-refoulement, or no forced return. It is highly disappointing that Thailand and Laos have effected the return of this group to Laos.
A second larger group of an estimated 4000 Lao Hmong at Petchabun in Thailand, possibly including individuals eligible for resettlement, has also been forcibly returned to Laos.
Australia has urged Thailand to support an effective and transparent screening process for this group which meets international standards and provides effective protection to those who may need it.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, has repeatedly raised the situation of the Lao Hmong in discussions with his Thai and Lao counterparts.
The Australian Government again calls on Thailand and Laos to meet international standards for the treatment of refugees.
The Australian Ambassador in Laos is joining other members of the diplomatic corps in pressing the Lao Government to guarantee the safety of the returnees, and provide early access to them.
Australia remains committed to resettling Lao Hmong refugees, and encourages the Thai and Lao Governments to work with UNHCR and countries that have agreed to resettle Lao Hmong.
- Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500
- Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555