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Home > Media > Refugee Council marks Refugee Week with call for enhanced humanitarian response

Refugee Council marks Refugee Week with call for enhanced humanitarian response

16 June 2024

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is marking Refugee Week with a renewed call for a robust response to the global refugee crisis. Highlighting the theme of this year’s Refugee Week, the Refugee Council underscores the pivotal role of families in the lives of refugees and stresses the need for Australia to play an even greater role in constructively responding to the increasing displacement of people across the world.

Australia’s Global Response

According to the UNHCR, there are almost 12 million more people (equivalent to almost half the Australian population) that have been forced from their homes than there were at the end of 2022. As the global refugee crisis intensifies, Australia is uniquely positioned to lead by example. By expanding its Humanitarian Program and increasing support for complementary pathways through education, business, and community initiatives, Australia can offer more refugees the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety.

Earlier this month, the Australian Government and RCOA co-chaired the global Consultations on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways, bringing together 340 delegates from 44 countries. This event underscored Australia’s potential to amplify its impact on the global stage, fostering pathways to safety beyond the traditional Humanitarian Program.

“Australia has the unique opportunity to build on the momentum of this global platform and provide pathways to safety, not only through the Humanitarian Program but through alternative options. Expanding the ways that businesses, universities and communities can be involved in supporting additional refugees to rebuild their lives in Australia would benefit all involved and support Australia’s economy and society,” RCOA CEO Paul Power said.

The Crucial Role of Families

This year’s Refugee Week theme focuses on the transformative power of familial bonds amidst adversity. Families provide solace, support, and a sense of belonging to those forced to flee their homes. However, Australia remains one of the few countries with stringent limits on family reunions, a policy that has a profound impact on refugee communities.

“Families are the cornerstone of resilience for refugees,” Mr Power said. “Whether it’s the unwavering support of parents, the protective love between siblings, or the communal strength found in extended and chosen families, these connections offer hope in times of uncertainty. It’s vital that our policies reflect the importance of these bonds.”

The Origins and Growth of Refugee Week

Refugee Week has a rich history originating in Australia. It was first proposed in the 1980s by the founding president of RCOA, Major-General Paul Cullen. The first Refugee Week event was a street parade and community celebration in Sydney in 1986.

Since then, Refugee Week has grown into a global celebration, now aligned with World Refugee Day and marked in countries including the UK, Malta, Greece, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Germany. This year, Croatia, Ireland, Jordan, Lithuania, and Slovenia have joined the observance, spotlighting the significance of Refugee Week.

Australia Can Do Better

This Refugee Week, RCOA calls on the government to establish a clear, coherent humanitarian crisis response framework that provides certainty to both those fleeing conflict and the Australians eager to support them.

“We have seen an increase in concern among the Australian public in response to conflicts in Gaza and Israel, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Myanmar, Sudan, and the Middle East,” Mr Power said. “The overwhelming call is for Australia to do more to help people fleeing these crises of violence and war.”

RCOA urges the Australian Government to build on its recent leadership role and expand its support mechanisms for refugees and refugee families. While there have been positive, bipartisan responses from Australian governments to these crises, the measures require more consistency.

For more information, please contact: Refugee Council of Australia
Phone: 0432 809 244

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