Refuge Week is a national week dedicated to raise public awareness and reduce hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers. It is hoped that through positive encounters between refugees and the general public, and the sharing of knowledge about the issue, that we can overcome the antagonism refugees face, and explore new ways to address this hardship. It is an opportunity for us as a community to celebrate the immense courage, resilience and valuable contributions made by refugees to Australian society and discuss the hardships they must endure just to attain safety and security.
Every refugee brings their own story of why they left home, their journey and, in some cases, finding safety in Australia. The journeys many refugees have endured are breathtaking and are worthy of being heard. Each Refugee Week, it is encouraged that we all talk to and bond with those who have been settled into Australian society. The theme for Refugee Week is ‘A World of Stories’ where we are asked to ‘Share a meal, share a story…’ Sharing food is a powerful way to interact and connect. The sharing of stories is an opportunity to not only remember and honour their journey but also to educate the Australian community to better understand the courage and contribution that refugees make, and the hardships they endure in our current systems.
A discussion of the harsh resettlement programs we have currently employed under Australian national law should also take place. Most refugees must travel long distances, often in unsafe conditions to claim protection as a refugee. This is commonly called ‘seeking asylum’. Australia has recently declared it will crack down on asylum seekers and continue to send them to Nauru or Papua New Guinea to be ‘processed’ for years. This can leave them to feel abandoned, fear for their safety, and have no way to establish or support themselves. Those who enter Australia without prior notice are, by law, required to be detained. There is no time limit to their detention and no independent review of whether they should be detained. People are held despite committing no crime. Let’s talk about this pressing issue, and ensure this is public knowledge. If you know a refugee or have the pleasure of meeting one this Refugee Week, you will realise that these harsh conditions are a reality for millions.
Given that there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide as of June 2018, the need to draw attention to the challenges facing refugees is incredibly urgent.
Author: Rebecca McLevie