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Building A Better Plan For Refugees Through Community Sponsorship

*Suong is a refugee. Suong comes from a country where people are afraid of authority, corruption and they fear for the lives of their family, their friends and their children. Suong has many reasons to be afraid, each more valid than the last.

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(Photo by rawpixel via Unsplash)

Having to leave in the dead of night with only minimal belongings and running from flashing lights and gunfire, Suong clutched her small child to her chest and ran blindly into the night, eager to reach the harbour. Finally, Suong and her family arrived and they boarded a rickety fishing boat, filled to the brim with other families and young children. A strong odour of sweat, blood and human misery entered Suong’s nostrils and her young son began to cry. Cradling him into her chest, she rocked back and forth, singing quietly, trying to soothe her child.

Suong is a mother, attempting to comfort her child. Suong is a human being, and Suong’s story is just like any other refugees’ story. But we as a society we choose to shut it out. We as a society can and should do better.

Refugee Week is from 17-23 June, and the theme for this years’ week is #WithRefugees – to stand in solidarity and unite as a people. We need to ensure as a nation that people like Suong, who have to flee from their homes in the dead of night, are safe and can live with dignity and hope.

We work tirelessly to advocate for refugees and asylum seekers, including championing solutions to increase our humanitarian intake, end offshore detention and bring refugees to safety.

We believe in a different approach and this year there is an exciting grassroots plan for our refugee campaign. It’s all about people power. We believe in showing a critical mass of people a better plan for refugees and by persuading them to support it, we can force politicians to act.

By growing visible support in your community for an improvedcommunity sponsorship program and lobbying your local council to show their support, we will send our Government a clear message – our communities are serious about creating safe ways for their new neighbours to be brought to Australia.

Amnesty has reported that by the end of 2015, 65.3 million people worldwide had been forced to leave their homes as a result of conflict, persecution, violence and human rights violations. Of these:

  • 21.3 million people had to escape to another country. These people are referred to as refugees.
  • 3.2 million people have sought safety in another country. These are people seeking asylum.
  • 40.8 million people were displaced within their own country. These people are described as internally displaced persons.

Right now, the vast majority of the world’s refugees live in developing regions, with half of the 20 million refugees in just 10 countries.

In a ground breaking move of solidarity, acceptance and humanitarianism, in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis, EU countries offered asylum to 292,540 refugees. 140,910 were accepted into Germany.

We as a society can do better. The Australian Government unfortunately seeks to punish and deter people forced to flee persecution, hunger, violence and climate disasters, seeking safety for themselves and for their families, through its law enforcement agencies.

This is a global issue that requires all governments to do their fair share. Amnesty is campaigning for our governments to show decisive leadership and implement practical and innovative solutions so that refugees can rebuild their lives in safety.

People like Suong and her family deserve the same rights as anyone else and it shouldn’t be her burden that she was born into a war-torn country. People need to help the people and the government needs to listen.

Refugee Week is about raising awareness about the issues affecting refugees and to celebrate the positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Celebrated since 1986, Refugee Week coincides with World Refugee Day on 20 June.

For more information about Amnesty’s stance on refugee policy, see Amnesty’s Better Plan for Refugees and the Refugee Campaign Toolkit, or visit the Refugee Week website for more information.

Words by Jacqui O’Leary 

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