World Refugee Day

Parliament house flag post

World Refugee Day

Posted 18/06/2013 by Harriet Spinks



On Thursday 20 June people around the world will celebrate World Refugee Day, which was first marked in 2001 following the adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution in December 2000. World Refugee Day is an opportunity to increase awareness about the world’s growing number of refugees, asylum seekers and forcibly displaced people. Events will be held around the world, including in Australia, to celebrate the achievements of refugees and highlight the many challenges they still face.

When the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was first adopted in the 1950s there were an estimated 1.5 million refugees worldwide. By the time World Refugee Day was first celebrated in 2001, the total population of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was estimated at 19.8 million, including 12 million refugees, 940 000 asylum seekers and 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The major country of origin for asylum seekers and refugees in 2001 was Afghanistan with Afghans comprising a third of the global refugee population.

By the end of 2011 the UNHCR estimated that there were 42.5 million people forcibly displaced due to conflict and persecution, including 15.2 million refugees, 26.4 million IDPs and 895 000 asylum seekers. Afghanistan remained the leading county of origin for refugees.

The vast majority of asylum seekers and refugees are hosted in developing countries (usually in close proximity to the conflict zones), so the burden of assisting the world’s asylum seekers and refugees actually falls to some of the world’s poorest countries. According to UNHCR data, Pakistan is host to the largest number of refugees worldwide, mostly from Afghanistan. In comparison, the contribution by industrialised countries as hosts is very small—and Australia’s contribution is just a fraction of this.

When World Refugee Day was established in 2001 the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, urged industrialised countries not to close their doors to asylum seekers or try to lessen their obligations to refugees, arguing ‘In any case, no wall will be high enough to prevent people from coming’. At the time, the UNHCR noted the considerable challenges for the future and the collective responsibilities for the world’s industrialised countries:

In a world where serious human rights abuses cannot always be prevented, it is important to ensure that those who have to flee are able to find safety... It is our collective responsibility now to learn from the lessons of the past in developing new mechanisms for responding effectively to the challenges of the future.
In 2011, marking the 60th anniversary of the Refugees Convention, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, appealed for a renewed global commitment towards helping the world’s most vulnerable people. He pointed out that while protection challenges globally are now very complex, they are just as demanding as they were in the post-war environment that prompted the establishment of the UNHCR, and warned that the world faces many protection challenges in the future:
We have many reasons to be proud, but we also have much more reason to be concerned with the challenges we face at the present moment, and recognizing that unfortunately the root causes of conflict and displacement are not being eliminated and the next few years will be as challenging as the past.

Today the UNHCR acknowledges that the ‘changing nature of forced displacement is testing the international humanitarian system, and indeed the international community as a whole, in unprecedented ways’. However, it urges nations to work cooperatively towards better meeting the protection needs of the world’s most vulnerable people through ‘more international solidarity, and a recommitment to the fundamental tenets of protection, to enable the international community to face the present and future realities of global displacement’.

In Australia, refugees and asylum seekers have the subject of vigorous political debate for many years, despite the fact that the numbers arriving in Australia are very low in the global context. The UNHCR Regional Representative for Australia, Richard Towle, has commended Australia on its efforts to assist refugees, but lamented the nature of recent political and public debate concerning asylum seekers arriving by boat. He urges Australia to take a leadership role in protecting the rights of refugees, and continue to engage other countries in the region to improve the protection available to refugees and asylum seekers:
UNHCR is concerned that asylum in Australia is very much at a cross roads – whether to continue down the path of ever more restrictive and deterrence-based policies and practices - or, to redouble efforts that engage other countries in the region through meaningful cooperation and collaboration.



Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

Refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment indigenous Australians Sport illicit drugs gambling people trafficking taxation Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations health financing Asia Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA income management Industrial Relations emissions trading dental health Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police people smuggling poker machines National Disability Insurance Scheme Australian Crime Commission 43rd Parliament slavery election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service constitution International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection Aviation debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure ALP New Zealand Newstart Parenting Payment Census politics High Court skilled migration voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS governance youth paid parental leave environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs Senate doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur UK Parliament Electoral reform political parties banking firearms public policy Population violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism science research and development social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation accountability public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning Senators and Members United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs health reform Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing health system money laundering United Kingdom early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity transparency Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration Australia Greens federal election 2010 servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency productivity human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying asylum seekers Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits ANZUS qantas counselling

Show all
Show less
Back to top