9 June 2023

Across the globe, people make the difficult decision to leave their home countries in search of better lives. For refugees, the circumstances for leaving their home country are vastly different to the circumstances for immigrants.

Image: A woman wearing a blue Hijab next to her daughter wearing a light blue Hijab.

National Refugee Week (18 - 24 June), is an important time to celebrate the contribution refugees make to our community, and to learn about Refugees and Asylum Seekers' experiences and the many challenges they face coming to Australia.

The experience of a refugee holds much distress, trauma, and loss. Refugees have had their lives irreparably changed, often without warning and in the face of life-threatening dangers. People must say goodbye to their homes, family members and communities to face a difficult journey to a new country and an uncertain future.

A contribution to the challenges faced by Refugees and Asylum Seekers is the confusion around the terms refugee and immigrant, as they are often used interchangeably despite the significant differences.

Who is an Immigrant?

An immigrant is a person who is seeking better opportunities and chooses to leave their home to settle in another country. They can return home whenever they choose; however, many choose to seek permanent residency or citizenship. The important part to note is that for immigrants, it is a choice to leave their countries.

Who is a Refugee or Asylum Seeker?

A Refugee or Asylum Seeker is a person who is at risk of persecution, human rights violations, violence, or war that has fled their country to seek safety. Refugees are forced to flee, often without warning, and they are unable to return home until conditions in their country are safe, which, in some cases, is never.

Once a person is legally considered a Refugee under Refugee Status Determination (RSD), they have a right to international protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention, preventing them from being returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.

Image: A young child wearing a hooded jumper, holding a soft bear and sitting in a refugee camp.

Why should we welcome refugees?

In just the last three years, we have seen shocking and disturbing events that have displaced people from their homes and countries.

In late 2021, tens of thousands of people fled their homes in fear of persecution and violence as the Taliban assumed power in Afghanistan. Many young children came to Australia unaccompanied by any member of their family in order to be kept safe and seek refuge and asylum.

In 2022, distressing scenes emerged as Ukraine was invaded by Russia. It has since been reported that over 5 million refugees were forced to leave their homes, communities and lives to seek safety in other countries.

Earlier this year, conflict in Sudan displaced almost 450,000 civilians from their homes, with more than 115,000 leaving Sudan to seek refuge in neighbouring countries. The U.N. Refugee Agency indicates this number may grow to 800,00 refugees if the conflict continues.

Image: A woman in an orange dress and headscarf walking through a refugee camp holding a bucket.

As human beings, we are united by the rights and personal freedoms that we all enjoy; the right to self-determination, the right to be valued and respected, and the right to personal freedom. Everyone deserves to live in safety and have their human rights respected.

We live in a globalised world, and Australia shares the global responsibility to create a world where people who are in danger can rebuild their lives in a safe place.

Australia is a multicultural nation and has vibrant communities thanks to the contribution of people who have made a life here from across the globe. Our country is strengthened by diversity, and refugees who settle here contribute to this. When given the opportunity, refugees give back to the community that has provided them with a safe home.

Image: A young girl in a striped hoodie with brown hair smiling at the camera.

At Life Without Barriers, we support Refugees and Asylum Seekers to gain access to vital services such as housing, employment, and medical and legal services.

Through our National Immigration Support Services, we have seen first-hand the contribution refugees can make, like Ahmad Khan, a refugee from Afghanistan who has built his business in Australia and Junior, a young man from Papua New Guinea who has launched his career through our Employment Mentor Program.

During National Refugee Week, we encourage you to visit the Refugee Week website to learn more about refugees, the challenges they face and the contributions they have made to communities across Australia.

Voices on Voice

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive the latest news and updates on reconciliation straight to your inbox.

Related Stories