DATE: 13 January 2009
Australia-Vietnam information pact combats irregular migration
Cooperation with Australia and Vietnam on immigration issues was strengthened today with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on information-sharing, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said.
In the first visit to Vietnam by an Australian immigration minister since 2004, Senator Evans and Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security, General Le Hong Anh, signed the Exchange of Immigration Information MoU in Hanoi today.
Senator Evans said the MoU would build on the already strong relationship between the two countries on immigration matters.
“We will use the memorandum as a framework to develop cooperative activities relating to immigration information issues and to facilitate and encourage greater exchange of immigration information between Vietnam and Australia,” Senator Evans said.
“This will serve to strengthen Australia’s relationship with the Ministry of Public Security – Immigration, which is my department’s primary Vietnamese counterpart and is responsible for immigration policy and the control of airports in Vietnam.”
Australia and Vietnam agreed to work in partnership to establish immigration information analysis units in the Ministry of Public Security – Immigration and the Ministry of Defence – Border Guards.
Senator Evans also proposed the establishment of a working group between senior officials from both countries to generate open discussion of the bilateral relationship and migration-related issues of mutual interest.
“Minister Anh and I discussed the importance of strong migration management in the region to address people smuggling by sea and air, human trafficking and other irregular migration issues,” the minister said.
“Australia’s technical cooperation and engagement with Vietnam is already considerable.
“Our engagement with Vietnam, particularly through document examination and English language training are highly valued and appreciated by our Vietnamese counterparts.”
The minister will inspect a document examination lab in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday (January 14) while he attends the opening of an English language training program for Vietnamese Government staff at the Tan Son Nhat airport.
Five Australian-funded document examination labs gifted to the Vietnamese Government have been operating to successfully counter migration fraud at airports and seaports. The newest lab, Da Nang, opened last month. There are two labs in Hanoi and another at Moc Bai near the Cambodian border.
“The laboratories include a specialised video imaging system, microscopes and light sources including ultraviolet and white light,” the minister said.
“Working with our regional neighbours is an essential element in managing our border security. My department – the Department of Immigration and Citizenship – has also worked closely with the Vietnamese Government to train document examiners.
“These facilities build on Vietnam’s existing document examination capabilities and assist in the fight against identity and document fraud.
“Identity fraud is a global issue and possessing specialist equipment and examination techniques is crucial for enhancing the integrity of international borders in our region.”
During the January 11-14 visit, the Senator Evans-led delegation will also meet the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Pham Gia Khiem, and the Deputy Minister of Defence, Colonel-General Phan Trung Kien.
Senator Evans said business and tourism ties between Australia and Vietnam continued to grow, which made cooperation on migration matters between the two countries essential.
Two-way trade between Australia and Vietnam has grown an average of 20 per cent a year over the past five years, to reach almost $7 billion in 2007.
In the past three years, the number of short-term business travelers from Vietnam to Australia has more than doubled, with 3395 subclass 456 visas granted in 2005-06, jumping to 8252 grants in 2007-08.
While Vietnam was proving to be a popular destination for Australian tourists, Senator Evans said Australia was also becoming more popular with Vietnamese travelers.
There were 7337 visitor visas granted to Vietnamese nationals in 2007-08, almost double the 3726 granted in 2006-07.
The minister said this latest delegation visit built on his successful regional visits to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore in August 2008.