16 June 2014


UN Photo/UNHCR/R LeMoyne
Conflicts in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and the Central African Republic have resulted in fresh waves of refugees and internally displaced peoples. Turkey alone now hosts 640,889 refugees mainly from Syria.

Figures for 2013 are due to be released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) later this month, but are expected to show a further increase from the 45.2 million people that were in situations of displacement at the beginning of 2013.

Statistics released by the UNHCR earlier this year also revealed a sharp rise in asylum claims in 44 industrialised countries over the course of the previous 12 months with a total of 612,700 people claiming asylum in the North American, European and East Asia/Pacific regions. (Australia received 24,300 claims in this period)

In the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20th June the UNHCR is highlighting individual stories of refugees. Stories that put a human face on the statistics may help to counter the consistent pervasive demonising of asylum seekers by labeling them ‘illegals’, ‘queue jumpers’ or ‘terrorists’ and thus justify the cruel and inhumane treatment to which those fleeing persecution are subjected in some countries.

One practical action that can be taken to voice a protest against the current policies of the Australian government is to sign the petition calling for the closure of the offshore detention centres at Manus Island and Nauru.

Refugee Week  which incorporates World Refugee Day is Australia's peak annual activity to raise awareness about the issues affecting refugees and celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society.

In yet another demonstration of the petty and vindictive nature of the current Australian government’s policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, as well its willingness to punish those who challenge that policy, the government has cut off funding to the Refugee Council of Australia  which for more than thirty years has worked to promote the development of humane, lawful and constructive policies towards refugees and asylum seekers.

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