Written by Sara Saleh, Media & Public Affairs Coordinator at Amnesty International Australia.
Just a few months ago, we spoke to Yogachandran Rahavan, a refugee who, along with his wife and 3 young children, has been detained at Villawood Detention Centre with no end in sight.
Every day, Amnesty International researchers are on the ground, meeting refugees and asylum seekers and bearing witness to their plight; the plight of seeing their villages burned to the ground, their women raped, their families killed.
Many come from educated or skilled backgrounds, forced because of armed conflict to flee the life they have known, or risk losing their life entirely.
Everything they know is destroyed, and once they finally have the courage to escape, they do so leaving their family and friends behind.
In his blog marking World Refugee Day, Amnesty International's Sherif Elsayed-Ali highlights his experiences with refugees and migrants in the Middle East and North Africa who wait tirelessly, year after year for a solution to their plight.
That the best these refugees could hope for - not to be sent back to where they fled from - is what most human beings when presented with the facts, would consider the bare minimum.
Even in Australia.
But the reality Sherif found is that thousands upon thousands of refugees cannot work legally, study or integrate. If they manage to escape persecution and conflict in their own countries, they were left in limbo in a country that did not want them, waiting for resettlement to another country where they could perhaps restart their life.
Surprisingly, these extreme difficulties are not confined to the Middle East and Africa.
In recent years, countries such as Italy and Spain, both signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees, have increased cooperation with North and West African nations to prevent asylum-seekers and migrants from reaching Europe.
In the case of Italy-Libya cooperation, this has led to boats full of people being pushed back to Libya where they risked torture and prolonged detention.
In response to such appalling developments, earlier this month, Amnesty International Europe launched a campaign for the protection of the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Europe called When You Don't Exist.
The website is a comprehensive look at the current status of refugees and asylum seekers, providing the facts and refuting the negative attitudes by using interactive graphics and short films such as this one.
The concept is simple.
What if you, like Yogachandran and his family, were forced to flee Australia to save yourself and your family? What choices would you make – if you had any choice at all?
Would you try and escape to a land where security, freedom and dignity are an everyday way of life – only to find yourself in a prison here, too, stateless and defenseless?
This campaign may have been created for Europe, but it might as well be for Australia.
The ‘debate' surrounding refugees and asylum seekers here is no different, they are used as perennial scapegoats by politicians who blame them for crime rates and joblessness.
This in turn fuels xenophobia and increases the risk of violence against them. Refugees and asylum-seekers are vulnerable because they generally have little economic or political influence.
Over the years, Amnesty International activists have helped prevent the return of thousands of people to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights abuses. But our biggest challenge remains to fight the prevalent attitudes towards refugees and asylum-seekers.