At this moment, there are more people seeking asylum than at any point since World War II. People just like us, but with no choice but to run for their lives. Amnesty campaigns for people seeking asylum by urging the world’s governments to do their fair share to protect and assist people who are simply seeking somewhere safe to live.The issue in depth
The Refugee Crisis in depth
Everything you need to know
By the end of 2015, 65.3 million people worldwide had been forced to leave their homes as a result of conflict, persecution, violence and human rights violations. Of these:
- 21.3 million people had to escape to another country. These people are referred to as refugees.
- 3.2 million people have sought safety in another country. These are people seeking asylum.
- 40.8 million people were displaced within their own country. These people are described as internally displaced persons.
On the ground in Manus Island
Amnesty International Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze is currently in Manus Island documenting what is happening as the refugee detention centre at Lombrum closes. Kate has been on Manus Island for several days interviewing a wide range of people about the human rights issues faced by refugees there.
We are deeply concerned about what is happening, particularly the lack of access to food, power, water, medical and transport services for refugees, as well as the deteriorating mental health of refugees still in the centre.
Refugees being interviewed told Kate that that they are very concerned for their safety, and that all they want is their freedom and security.
We are also deeply troubled by the state of the accommodation people are to be moved to, and the lack of long-term solutions for those trapped on Manus. The Australian government are moving people from one cruel and inhumane location to another, papering over the cracks of this abusive system.
Instead of walking away and washing their hands of this abusive situation, the Australian government should do the only humane thing — immediately bring the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island to safety in Australia.
Amnesty International researchers will remain on the ground over the coming days and continue to monitor the situation.
Along the Way
In 2015 and the first half of 2016, millions of refugees and people seeking asylum from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Iraq and El Salvador continued to risk their lives to seek protection in other countries. They often have little choice but to undertake dangerous sea and land crossings.
These women, men and children face border closures, pushbacks, extortion and violence from law enforcement officials, criminal gangs, smugglers and human traffickers.
When fleeing to another country, women and girls are at high risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Whilst fleeing from Central American countries to Mexico and the United States, women and girls are at significant risk of sexual violence – 60 per cent are raped on route.
Gender, ethnic and religious stereotypes often make it even more difficult for certain groups to find safety. While many European media outlets question the motives of young Syrian men who are seeking asylum, suggesting they should remain in their country and fight for their family, the truth is that 95 per cent of those who are abducted or secretly imprisoned in Syria are men. Their lives are at risk if they stay.
Where do refugees go?
At the end of 2015, of the 21.3 million refugees:
- 5.2 million Palestinian refugees reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.
- 4.4 million refugees were hosted in sub-Saharan Africa.
- More than 4 million people were hosted in Europe, which is an increase of 1.3 million from the previous year.
- Of the 4.4 million refugees in Europe, 2.5 million refugees lived in Turkey, most came from Syria and Iraq.
- The Asia and Pacific region hosted 3.8 million refugees.
- 2.7 million refugees were hosted in the Middle East and North Africa.
- The Americas hosted 746,800 refugees.
For the 21.3 million refugees, very few can safely return to their country of origin and in 2015, only 201,400 refugees (less than 1 per cent) were able to do so.
There are very few paths to safety for refugees, even though they have shown incredible resilience, enduring life-threatening situations. We believe that governments around the world, including here in Australia, must work together to provide safety for people seeking asylum.
The Australian Response
To play our part in making our world a better place, we must have a better plan to shoulder our fair share of responsibility. Locking up people on far off islands or pushing people back to harm doesn’t face up to the challenges we and other countries must deal with.
We need to put cooperation with our neighbours – as part of normal trade and diplomatic business – at the heart of a long-term, common sense plan for the fair treatment of refugees.
Instead, for the past 15 years, the Australian Government has chosen to punish rather than help men, women and children who are simply looking for a safe place to rebuild their lives – despite being legally obliged to help them under international refugee law.
Rather assessing all people asking for protection in a fair, efficient and orderly way, the Australian Government has created a deliberate system of abuse of thousands of adults and children. Of those desperate enough to risk the treacherous boat journey to Australia, the government has forcibly transferred people to the remote islands of Nauru and Manus Island (Papua New Guinea). For over three years, the Australian Government has indefinitely trapped over 1,200 men, women and children on Nauru and over 800 men on Manus Island.
Our top investigator visited Nauru in July 2016 and found that refugees and people seeking asylum are routinely neglected and at times denied medical care by IHMS, the main health services company hired by the Australian Government.
Refugees and asylum seekers interviewed said that since being forced onto Nauru that many had begun to repeatedly self-harm, cutting their hands or banging their heads against the wall, did not speak to anybody for months, did not recognize their relatives, and stayed in bed for weeks, refusing to go outside or take showers.
Children have begun to wet their beds, suffered from nightmares, and and in some instances had stopped speaking to people outside of their immediate families.
For those who do not arrive by boat, the Australian Government currently resettles 13,750 refugees per year through a robust humanitarian program. To put that in perspective, Canada, a similar country with a similar population and economy, resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 2016 alone. Australia has the capacity to welcome at least 30,000 refugees per year.
For Australia to be part of a shared solution to this global issue, the government needs to put people’s safety first and undertake search and rescue operations rather than push boats back and return people to persecution and harm. As our Deadly Journeys report shows, many people risk their lives on a dangerous boat journey because they are running for their lives and are looking for a safe place.
The Australian Government is ignoring our responsibility to be part of the global solution and are shifting the problem to other, often less wealthy countries. After 15 years of government abuse of people seeking asylum, the Australian community has had enough. The Australian Government must step up regional and global cooperation and find a shared solution to this global challenge. Abuse is never a solution.Close
Over 1.19 million women, men and children need to be resettled in a safe country, yet only 30 countries offer just over 100,000 annual resettlement places.
Wealthier countries – including Australia – and the international community as a whole have failed to share responsibility for the increasing numbers of refugees. Right now, the vast majority of the world’s refugees live in developing regions, with half of the 20 million refugees in just 10 countries.
Over 1.2 million women, men and children are identified by the UN Refugee Agency as the most vulnerable refugees needing resettlement in a safe country. Yet for many years only 30 countries offered over 100,000 annual resettlement places. At the Leaders Summit initiated by USA President Obama on 20 September 2016, countries offered protection to 360,000 people.
This is a global issue that requires all governments to do their fair share. Amnesty is campaigning for our governments to show decisive leadership and implement practical and innovative solutions to urgently protect millions of refugees so they can rebuild their lives in safety.Close
What we're asking
With your help, Amnesty can continue working to make sure that these resilient people are treated humanely, and given the safety that they deserve. Join our call to the world’s governments - including Australia - to do their fair share to protect and assist refugees who are simply seeking somewhere safe to live.Read More
A safe place to live
In the face of one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time, shared global solutions are needed to provide refugees with the protection and rights due to them. These are not special rights, they are simply human rights such as safe shelter, food and water, the opportunity to work, access to education and legal assistance.
Amnesty’s Global Refugee campaign aims to significantly increase the assistance provided by governments around the world by 2018. Our aim is to encourage governments to do more by humanely hosting more refugees, providing legal and safe routes for travel and admission, increasing resettlement places or fulfilling funding appeals.
In Australia, our campaign objectives are to:
- close Australia’s offshore immigration detention and processing centres
- end Australia’s policy of boat pushbacks for good
- ensure the Australian Government contributes to regional search and rescue operations
- establish a commitment from both major political parties in Australia to a regional approach to responsibility-sharing
- increase Australia’s annual humanitarian intake to a minimum of 30,000 places per year.
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