eX-detainees’ “Refugee Week / Day” Statement 2021

RISE: the eX-detainee self-determined, led and governed, advocacy and welfare organisation in Australia calls for a boycott of Refugee Week, and “World Refugee Day” for the ninth year in a row. 

While the deadly Coronavirus has been going around the world for nearly two years now, where are the coordinated efforts to support forcibly displaced people and refugees? What are the vaccine rollouts for our community members before it gets worse in refugee camps? Every country is trying to increase border control and expand the military industrial complex.  While there are a staggering number of forcibly displaced people numbering over 80 million and over 26 million refugees around the world, what is there to celebrate? 

Eating refugee cooked meals, listening to sad and happy stories and running refugee panel discussions is the motto every refugee week and refugee day.  This happens once a year led by UNHCR and is set up by orientalist white saviours.  Enough is enough, we want our rights, NOT compassion. Stop the mockery of lives, stop the exploitation of our lives, stop expecting us to school you and hold your hands.  We have the right to seek protection. 

These events have been initiated by UNHCR (The United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and it is cruel to participate in this “celebration” when the UN is doing little to stop the global escalation of forced displacement due to war and persecution and millions of our people are being killed, tortured, abused and stuck in interim camps with no end in sight.

UN and UNHCR are always towing the line with permanent members of the UN security council.  If so-called human rights bodies aren’t taking solid action against the visible Palestinian genocide unfolding on our electronic screens, what hope do West Papuans, the Rohingya, Darfurians, Hazaras, Tamils, Uyghurs etc. have? We need more than lip service and corny media releases by UNHCR.  We also question why the head office of these “human rights” organisations is in Geneva or why it is managed by mostly white people while most of the displaced people and Refugees are from Asia, Africa and South America. 

Those who say they can’t wait for their lives to be “normal” and that the Covid-19 restriction has been “very hard” for them, have you forgotten some of us have been indefinitely detained and tortured in front of your eyes in immigration detention centres, or don’t have the luxury to leave even a 5km radius from the refugee camps, or have been stuck in borders for decades, or waiting in interim countries for decades for resettlement.

Reflecting on Australia :

Detainees and eX-detainees are disposable in Australia. 

We are routinely tortured and abused in detention as well as in the community where we are heavily policed, systematically discriminated against and abused as well. Some of us eX-detainees have citizenship even though we haven’t seen our families for over 20 years and some of us who arrived in 1999 have still not got citizenship. Some of us who arrived in 2000 are still waiting for family reunification. We eX-detainees have experienced murder, rape, suicide and permanent injuries in detention torture sites run by successive Australian governments for decades.

The white supremacist refugee policy has existed for over 30 years now. Our community has been subjected to the misery of over 30 years of torture and abuse to serve the interests of politicians and profiteers of the refugee detention industry. From non-profit sectors such as Save the Children, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Missionaries to Australia’s tourist industry – they have all profited from the Australian Immigration department’s abusive and murderous “humanitarian” system designed for refugees who came by boats. The last 30 years we have been politicians’ election pawns as well as a major source of income flow to Australia’s non-profit sector.  While everyone is targeting us in Australia, the eX-detainee community has been living below the poverty line for decades. Shamelessly all three main political parties in Australia – the Greens, Labor and the Liberal/National Coalition support mandatory detention policies. Refugee Day and Refugee week will be the circus where they will share “hard-hitting” stories to serve their own political agendas and parties’ needs.


What you can do instead

  1. Rather than listening to happy and sad stories or attending a refugee panel discussions or expecting us to cook for you, why don’t you protest in front of the Australian PM Scott Morrison’s office, the office of the current Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews or the office of Immigration minister Alex Hawke.
  2. Centre and Amplify eX-detainee Voices
  3. Defund and Divest from the refugee detention industry : http://riserefugee.org/topic/detention-divestment
  4. Get involved in the eX-detainee led campaign to end the Australian Government’s white supremacist refugee policy for torturing and abusing refugees in detention centres, #SanctionAustralia Campaign http://riserefugee.org/topic/sanction-australia
  5. Share RISE eX-detainees’ 10 demands http://riserefugee.org/topic/ex-detainees-demands
  6. How many people have supported eX-detainees’ Day on the 14th of September a day that is not run by the UN or UNHCR, a privileged organisation headed mostly by non-eX-detainees http://riserefugee.org/topic/ex-detainees-day
  7. Support self-determined organisations, run by and for Refugees like RISE who don’t use our members’ photos as poverty porn and don’t take funding from or take selfies with government or UN officials : Account Name: RISE : BSB: 013128 : Account Number : 220584925

Eating our “exotic” foods, running refugee panel discussions, sharing sad and “successful” refugee stories during “Refugee Week” or every day is not going to end mandatory detention in Australia or end forced displacement. If you want to support detainees and eX-detainees and make positive change in society, then advocate ending Australian indefinite detention, which is  the world’s “most cruel”  refugee policy. 

eX-detainee Team