There are now over 65 million forcibly displaced people around the world, the highest number since World War II. Furthermore between just 2016 and 2017, despite the global increase of refugees, the number of refugee resettlement places dropped by 54%. How many refugees are Indefinitely and forcibly detained in immigration detention centres, Blocked from seeking protection, Tortured abused and murdered, Deprived of water and food supplies, Living below the poverty line within refugee camps or Deported to danger?
How are you going to address this systemic oppression and calculated discrimination during Refugee week? Sitting in a dark corner or event hall listening to happy and sad refugee stories and running panel discussions will not address the root of refugee global displacement. It is a cheap, weak and self centred approach that has satisfied personal or organisational goals which has not helped to effectively mitigate the escalating crisis of hyper militarization and abuse our communities face across the globe. To quote an eX-detainee RISE member, “Sharing refugee stories is a saviour complex strategy that bandages white structural discrimination against refugees in Australia. Discrimination, torture and abuse of refugees will not end by sharing happy and sad stories unless the system of abuse is dismantled.”
In RISE’s 2017 callout for a boycott of Refugee week, we mentioned the fact that the architects of one of the most brutal, xenophobic, white supremacist refugeepolicies in the world, Australia’s department of home affairs, are one of the participants in Refugee week “celebrations” and yes, they continue to do so in 2018 (https://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/alumni/alumni-news-articles/article/?id=help-us-and-the-department-of-home-affairs-celebrate-refugee-week, https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/Refugeeandhumanitarian/Documents/refugee-week-2018-a3.pdf). How could those partnering with the Australian Department of Home affairs at Refugee week events during this week keep ignoring the fact that this department continues to implement the discriminatory and abusive “No Advantage” policy introduced by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012 that included the reopening of refugee torture camps in Nauru and Manus camps where 12 refugee deaths have occurred so far? Not surprisingly, numerous NGOs that have supported and/or continue to support the Australian government to run detention centres and community detention are organising refugee week events-for example Salvation Army, Save the Children, Red Cross, AMES etc.
Most importantly we should not forget UNHCR, the peak international refugee body that purports to represent us Refugees, coercively collecting biometric data of the most vulnerable in interim countries for “security” measures, and facilitating “Voluntary” repatriation of Refugees to war torn countries such as Afghanistan. For instance RISE is aware that UNHCR has opened up an office in Bogor in Indonesia and Afghan community members have been informed this office will only assist those “who want to go back to Afghanistan”.
This lack of accountability is not something we can take lightly. We should not be remembered once a year as passive entertainers to satisfy the public’s voyeuristic interest or to satisfy the diversity checklist while our community members are directly or indirectly endangered by these very same entities.
While there are global efforts by both governments and NGOs during “World Refugee Day” 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 displacing people, stop feeding the deadly “border security” and military industrial complex, and provide safe passage and sanctuary for Refugees crossing borders.