World Refugee Day is a United Nations initiative which is held annually on the 20th of June. The date marks the anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The first World Refugee Day was held on 20 June 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Convention.
The theme for 2022 World Refugee Day is focused on the right to seek safety. The United Nations Human Rights Commission has delineated this theme into three central tenets, as outlined below:
- Whoever they are, people forced to flee should be treated with dignity.
- Wherever they come from, people forced to flee should be welcomed.
- Whenever people are forced to flee, they have a right to be protected.
Seeking safety as a refugee can mean many different things, and generally encompasses:
- Right to seek asylum: Anyone fleeing persecution, conflict, or human rights abuses has a right to seek protection in another country.
- Safe access: Borders should remain open to all people forced to flee. Restricting access and closing borders can make the journey even more dangerous for people seeking safety.
- No pushbacks: People cannot be forced to return to a country if their life or freedom is at risk. This means that countries must evaluate the dangers a person would face back home.
- No discrimination: People should not be discriminated against at borders. All applications for refugee status must be given fair consideration, regardless of factors like race, religion, gender, and country of origin.
- Humane treatment: People forced to flee should be treated with dignity and respect. They are entitled to safe and dignified treatment like any human being. Among other things, this means keeping families together, protecting people from traffickers, and avoiding arbitrary detention.
World Refugee Day serves to shine a light on refugee communities, both their plight as well as the rich diversity and unique experiences which exist in these communities. These communities contribute to the social fabric of their host countries, particularly multicultural societies like Australia, by providing opportunities for cultural exchange and learning.
In Australia, World Refugee Day is celebrated in conjunction with Refugee Week and co-ordinated by the Refugee Council of Australia. The theme for Refugee Week 2022 in Australia is healing. The importance of human connection and the ways in which we behave toward one another has been highlighted in the aftermath of the global pandemic. This is the guiding inspiration behind this year’s theme of healing, as both refugee communities and the wider community can draw upon shared hardships and the human experience to promote greater understanding and interconnectedness.
The Refugee Council of Australia has curated some useful resources to promote learning and participation.
Posters and Stationery
Together with the official sponsor of the Refugee Council of Australia, Canva, a number of template posters, event invites, and related stationery are made available on the official website.
These may be used to raise awareness or host your own event using the official templates.
Storytelling is central to the refugee experience. This is how we find commonalities, foster greater communication between communities, and bridge the distance between seemingly unalike people. Many authors from refugee backgrounds have documented their unique narratives and provided valuable insight into the refugee experience. Some compelling writing on refugee experiences include:
- First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers – Loung Ung
- No Friend but the Mountains – Behrouz Boochani
- The Ungrateful Refugee – Dina Nayeri
- City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp – Ben Rawlence
- The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives – Viet Thanh Nguyen
- Crossing – Patjim Statvoci
- The Boat People – Sharon Bala
- Boy 87 – Ele Fountain
Films and Documentaries
There are also excellent films and documentaries made by filmmakers from refugee backgrounds which explore refugee narratives in both a fiction and non-fiction context. One recent film released in 2022 is Akoni, which follows the story of a homeless Nigerian refugee who arrives in Australia after escaping the clutches of Boko Haram.
Quo Vadis, Aida? is a 2020 documentary by a Bosnian filmmaker about a teacher who, together with her husband and children, escape invading Serbian forces and take refuge in a United Nations camp.
Scattered People is an Australian documentary about two musicians who visit a Brisbane detention centre to share music and meet two Iranian musicians, Mas and Saha, who go on to collaborate with them. The documentary explores the power of music to break barriers, unite people, and forge shared experiences.
There are currently 85 events planned nationwide which recognise and celebrate World Refugee Day and Refugee Week in Australia. A full list, including events in your local area, can be found here: https://action.refugeecouncil.org.au/rw_events. The Refugee Council of Australia also encourages individuals to create and register their own events, however small, so that they appear on the interactive map. There are many ways to get involved, from sharing a meal to hosting a film screening or simply educating oneself through the myriad resources available.
Credit is given to www.refugeeweek.org.au and www.unhcr.org/en-au/world-refugee-day for the materials used to write this article.
Article by: Ayaan Omar, Committee Member, ACC Australia Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Special Interest Group
ACC Australia is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive in-house profession and has created the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Special Interest Group. If you are interested in participating in the special interest group or contributing ideas, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.