Reflections on Refugee Week

We have just finished Refugee Week which was celebrated with major events around the world. The week aims to promote harmony and togetherness with the theme this year of Healing. The importance of human connections has been underscored by the pandemic and the lessons from this can help our community in so many ways. 

We can draw upon shared hardship to heal wounds, to learn from each other and to move forward. Healing can occur through storytelling, through community and through realisation of our intrinsic interconnectedness as individuals. The common theme is a reminder that, regardless of our differences, we all share a common humanity.

I spent some time during the week reflecting on the change of government in Australia and hoping conditions can be re-set for so many people who came as asylum seekers to Australia and whose lives currently remain in limbo.

One of the organisations of which I am a director is CARAD – the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees. Along with the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University where I partly studied my doctorate, CARAD is extremely active in advocacy for those people with lived asylum seeker and refugee experience including those on temporary protection visas. Our new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said before the election that his government would oppose temporary protection visas. Right now in Australia more than 15,000 people of various nationalities are on temporary protection visas.

We need to keep them to their word.

I am in Europe at the moment and am watching with horror as the United Kingdom introduces its “Rwanda policy.” This policy will mean people who come seeking asylum by boat across the English Channel will be sent to Rwanda for processing. The UK Prime Minister has said they modelled this approach on Australia’s offshore processing – how horrible! These asylum seekers have little chance of a getting any sort of visa.

People are being punished all around the world for fleeing persecution and seeking asylum. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees strictly states that it is not illegal to seek asylum. 

Where has our humanity gone?