RISE: Refugees,Survivors and Ex-detainees has been boycotting and refusing to partake in “Refugee week” in Australia for the last three years, largely due to the fact that it has been appropriated as a PR exercise by various groups and individuals that have done little to dismantle the xenophobic and racist refugee policies that impact our lives. The most obvious example would be the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the creator of Australia’s own abusive anti-refugee policies, brazenly “celebrating” world Refugee week, with a section on their website dedicated to “Refugee week”

Australia marks its fourth year implementing one of the most racist refugee policies (the “no advantage” policy). The government continues to vilify and defame our community members while holding them hostage offshore, on Nauru and Manus Island, resulting so far in four deaths and untold misery. This is not something we take lightly. This cruel policy has impacted, and will continue to impact our lives physically and psychologically.

The Australian government and politicians rely on the complicity of “humanitarian” agencies, such as Save the Children and the Salvation Army, in order to implement racist and inhumane refugee policies. In 2015, the CEO of Save the Children Australia announced that refugee advocates should accept that the turn back of refugee boats are “here to stay”. Offshore detention jobs have even been advertised by “Ethical Jobs” in Melbourne. Who is accountable for all of this?

Furthermore, as we continue another year of over 60 million people forcibly displaced across the globe, one of the highest numbers since World War II, we should not forget that while the largest number of Refugees in the world come from Syria, the top 8 arms suppliers to Syria originate from the US, Canada, Russia and countries in the European Union. The world ignores the fact that the countries that create the most number of Syrian Refugees allow the least number of Refugees to seek safe haven within their borders.

These very same countries also control most of the funding and decision-making that shape refugee programs across the globe. While there are global efforts by both governments and NGOs during “World Refugee week” to make us sing, dance and perform for them as they momentarily “celebrate” our existence, thus far, we have not witnessed a global effort by these entities to stop feeding the deadly “border security” and military industrial complex, and provide safe passage and sanctuary for Refugees crossing borders. With most refugee signatory countries trying to block borders and deport Refugees to danger, what exactly is left for us to celebrate here? The escalating vilification and abuse of Refugees?

If refugee week is about us, it should be about OUR freedom, OUR voices, OUR lives, OUR future and OUR self-determination. We should not be remembered once a year as passive entertainers to satisfy the public’s ego, or as “success stories” to satisfy the diversity checklist. RISE will not partake in, nor “celebrate” or endorse, any events that increase or prioritise non-refugee voices as part of a cheap PR stunt.


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