June 20 is World Refugee Day — Is Australia doing its part?

World Refugee Day and Refugee Week 2023

World Refugee Day (20 June) is an annual international day to celebrate and honour people forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. The event shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees.

Refugee Week (18 June – 24 June, 2023) is an annual week in Australia to acknowledge, reflect on, and celebrate the lives of people from a refugee background and their contributions. The theme this year is ‘Finding Freedom’, focusing on what it means to be free for the millions of refugees on their journeys to freedom and safety. It highlights the importance of living life free from violence, war and persecution.

The global refugee crisis

The refugee crisis in 2023 is relentless — the war in Ukraine, devastation in Syria, starvation in Yemen, political unrest in Afghanistan, oppression in Myanmar. There are countless stories of people forced to leave their homes, and their families, to escape persecution, trauma or death.

More than 100 million people are displaced globally, yet only 30 countries around the world offer just over 100,000 annual resettlement places.

Australia’s commitment lags well behind other resettlement countries, such as Canada, which has committed to resettling up to 79,000 refugees annually. This Refugee Week, it’s time for that to change.”

Zaki Haidari, Amnesty Refugee Rights Campaigner

We need to be relentless in our support for refugees who are seeking safety and freedom.

Is Australia doing its part?

Australia has a long history of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution because their lives are under threat — the resettlement program began in the 1940s after World War II. However, in recent years, the government’s stance on refugees has been restrictive.

The Australian public has been vocal about the government’s approach to refugees. Many call for a more compassionate response to those seeking asylum, but, despite public pressure, policies have remained largely unchanged.

We all crave safety and a future. At the very least, Australia must allow everyone already found to be owed protection under the Refugee Convention a permanent home in Australia, no matter how or when they arrived.

Zaki Haidari, Amnesty Refugee Rights Campaigner

This Refugee Week and on World Refugee Day, we ask – is the Australian government doing its part to tackle the global refugee crisis?

Just over a year ago, the government promised to expand the humanitarian intake to 27,000 places. Currently, Australia’s refugee intake sits at 13,750. As it stands, the Australian government has yet to update their policies regarding the treatment of people seeking safety here, and the humanitarian intake for those at risk abroad.

There is hope — what we’ve achieved together so far

Amnesty advocates for those who urgently need safety and push governments to do their bit and put people first, including campaigning for the Australian government to raise the refugee and humanitarian intake and to end offshore detention.

Thanks to the relentless efforts of Amnesty supporters and partner organisations over the years, we have seen real change:

  • In March 2022, Australia accepted New Zealand’s long-standing offer to resettle refugees detained by the Australian Government’s brutal offshore detention policy which was designed to deter and punish people seeking protection. The number of people trapped offshore has now decreased from 600 to around 130.
  • In April 2022, the remaining refugees were released from Australia’s Alternative Places of Detention (APODs), including the notorious Park Hotel in Melbourne. Now, they are living within the community that called for their freedom.
  • In February 2023, the government announced that it would end the cruel and unnecessary system of temporary protection visas that forced thousands of people and their families to live in limbo, clearing a path for more than 19,000 refugees to apply for permanent status.

People power works – how you can help

We need to maintain pressure on the government to ensure Australia does its fair part to make sure refugees and people seeking asylum can live safe, healthy and happy lives.

“Refugee Week is the time for the federal Labor government to finally make good on its promise to the public, who voted at the federal election for Australia to do its fair share and welcome people seeking safety and a place to call home.”

Zaki Haidari, Amnesty Refugee Rights Campaigner

Together we can, have, and will continue to drive important change that saves lives.

  • Learn more about Amnesty’s refugee rights campaign work
  • Sign the petition calling on the government to raise Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian intake
  • Attend an event – there are dozens being held around the country celebrating Refugee Week
  • Make a donation to help Amnesty keep up the pressure on the government and raise public awareness by funding our campaigning, research and casework

Amnesty International is a global movement of 10 million people standing up for justice, freedom and equality. We work to free people unjustly jailed, bring torturers to justice and change oppressive laws. We shine a light on great wrongs by exposing the facts others try to suppress. We lobby governments, and the powerful to make sure they keep their promises and respect international law. Together, our voices challenge injustice and are powerful enough to change the world.

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