World Refugee Day, on June 20, aims to raise awareness of the situation of refugees around the globe.
The day is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, as a means of drawing attention to the plight of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. Australia extends its activity to Refugee Week, held Sunday June 19 to Saturday June 25, with a theme in 2016 of “With courage let us all combine” – a call for unity, positive action and encouraging Australians to improve our nation’s welcome for refugees and “to acknowledge the skills and energy refugees bring to their new home.
According to Amnesty international, public debate in Australia about asylum seekers and the right of refugees has been distorted by myths and misconceptions.
“Current government policy is shaped by around border protection concerns, and the idea that asylum seekers are “breaking the rules”. The result has been asylum seeker policy that is ineffective, inefficient, inhumane, and in many cases in violation of international human rights law,” the organisation says.
The Refugee Council of Australia agrees: “Myths create confusion and can fuel conflict, resentment and disharmony.”
In the lead up to World Refugee Week, UNHCR has launched a major campaign that calls for the world to unite on refugee acceptance using #WithRefugees.
The video released in conjunction with the campaign features more than 60 globally recognised celebrities – calling for the world to back the plight of refugees and encourage their world leaders to do the same.
The press release reads:
“The campaign aims to demonstrate public support for families forced to flee against a backdrop of dramatically increased displacement from conflict and persecution on the one hand, and heightened anti-refugee rhetoric and greater restrictions to asylum on the other. The petition will be delivered in advance of September’s historic UN High-Level Plenary of the General Assembly on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.
“Specifically, the petition asks all governments to make sure:
- Every refugee child has an education.
- Every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
- Every refugee can work or learn skills to make a positive contribution to their community.”
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Cate Blanchett, spoke about her support for the campaign and urged international powers to provide support for international agencies and open their doors to those seeking refuge.
“We are in the middle of a catastrophic displacement crisis that has already uprooted millions of innocent families, and seen too many lose their lives trying to reach safety. The ultimate solution is political – we need peace and stability. But whilst we wait for that, we – as people with a voice – can and must play our part. We must demand that all countries take a shared responsibility for ensuring refugees have protection, shelter and the chance to live a productive life. If enough of us stand together, we will be heard.”
Join the conversation and learn how you can play your part here.
Think you know the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to asylum seekers? Take our Myth-buster Quiz now.