Refugee Council of Australia
Three people at microphones

Rebuilding our damaged reputation: A strategy for Australian leadership on refugee protection

New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

In looking at how to improve Australia’s record, a good starting place would be the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a declaration Australia voluntarily adopted when Prime Minister participated in the UN General Assembly’s high-level Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September last year. The declaration included some quite impressive general commitments which are being developed between now and the end of next year into a Global Compact f or Refugees and a Global Compact for Migrants.

Much of the declaration is focused on the situation of nations poorer than Australia which are hosting significant numbers of refugees. While it is clearly in Australia’s interest for many host states to improve their protection of refugees, our nation cannot do that with any credibility if we don’t believe the same principles apply to us and if we are not prepared to make a fair contribution to host states with limited resources. So what did Australia and all other 192 UN member states agree to when they adopted the New York Declaration? I’ll give a quick summary of some of the main points.

All UN member states agreed to:

  • Adhere to the international protection regime, including the Refugee Convention, human rights law and international humanitarian law
  • Agree that the protection ofrefugees and assistance to host states should be a shared international responsibility
  • Increase efforts to address root causes of displacement through preventative diplomacy and support to countries of origin
  • Promote multi-stakeholder participation in implementing the declaration’s commitments, not just governments but also civil society, the private sector, and migrant and refugee organisations
  • Facilitate a well-funded emergency response and support a smooth transition to sustainable approaches that invest in resilience of refugees and local communities
  • Take steps against xenophobia, and implement measures to improve inclusion
  • Provide additional and predictable humanitarian funding and development support
  • Acknowledge the rights of states to manage borders but conforming with international law and the principle of non-refoulement (of notforcibly returning someone in need, or potentially in need, of protection from persecution)
  • Specific commitments to refugee and migrant women and girls, children, and others with particular vulnerabilities
  • Review policies that criminalise cross-border movement and pursue alternatives to detention
  • Increase avenues for refugees to be admitted to third countries through resettlement and complementary pathways
  • Provide access for refugees to education at all levels, from early childhood to tertiary, skilled and vocational training
  • Support comprehensive refugee responses for large-scale refugee movements, including protracted situations, with UNHCR as the lead but with multi-stakeholder involvement
  • Work towards the adoption of global compacts on refugees and migrants in 2018.

Join the Movement

We need you to show our government that Australia cares about refugees. Help us by joining the movement so we can protect refugees, not punish them.


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