Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Ministerial Statements


12:02 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I start by extending my thoughts and the thoughts of all those in this place to the people of Sudan and to the Sudanese-Australian community. What is taking place in Sudan is deeply troubling. Hundreds of innocent people have been killed and thousands more injured. Despite the reported ceasefire, heavy fighting continues across Sudan. I reiterate Australia's call for all parties to return to negotiations and agree to a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Australia has worked to assist Australians and their families to leave Sudan. Without an embassy in Sudan, we have worked closely with our friends and partners who have a presence on the ground, just as we support our friends and partners in the event of a crisis in our region. I have been in close contact with my counterparts on this effort, including with Indonesia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the UAE.

More than 240 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officers have worked on Australia's response: making calls to more than 400 Australian citizens, permanent residents and family members in Sudan, as well as hundreds of their concerned family and friends here in Australia; organising departure options; remotely arranging travel for Australians across disrupted cities; engaging diplomatically to push for ceasefires to inform our understanding and our decisions; and working around the clock in our crisis centre.

We have deployed additional consular staff to Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Cyprus and Egypt to support Australians arriving from Sudan. We've prioritised visa applications for those impacted by the conflict and embedded Australian officials in the United Kingdom's crisis centre as part of our efforts. We facilitated the departure of more than 230 Australians from Sudan via more than 20 flights, ferries and convoys, and more than 130 of these Australians are now in Australia. As part of our contribution to international efforts we sent ADF assets, a DFAT crisis response team and members of the Australian Border Force to assist, and, across two Australian flights, 153 people were evacuated: 57 Australians and their families, as well as 96 foreign nationals from 10 partner countries. So in this Senate I wish to thank on behalf of the government all those officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who have worked as part of the crisis response, as well as members of the Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force deployed to assist in the evacuation effort.

Some Australians remain in Sudan because they have chosen to or because they are not in a position to leave, and they do so for many reasons. Family is often one of those; security is another. We remain in direct contact with registered Australians and their families in Sudan, and I again reiterate my request that those who have not registered should do so. There are still departure options available from Port Sudan; however, any travel routes should of course be assessed carefully, as the situation remains volatile and it remains dangerous.

This conflict has exacerbated the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan, which was already suffering high levels of food insecurity, with large numbers of displaced people. In response, the government will provide an initial $6 million in humanitarian assistance; $1 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is still operating in Sudan, which provides much-needed medical supplies, food, water, sanitation, emergency shelter and protection for the most vulnerable; and $5 million to Australia's international partners delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance in the region, and this is of course on top of the flexible core funding that Australia provides to our humanitarian partners and UN agencies.

We again call on all parties to the conflict to uphold international law and protect civilians, including health and humanitarian aid workers, and I have no doubt all in this chamber would support that call. The Sudanese people deserve a chance for peace and a pathway to civilian led government. I thank the Senate.


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