At present, there are over 103 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, with over 32 million refugees among them. Over 1 million refugee children were born as refugees.

What is the main aim of “Refugee Week” or “Refugee Day,” originally initiated by UNHCR (the UN High Commissioner for Refugees), a mostly white, non-refugee led organisation? Highlighting fairytale-like sad and happy refugee stories, running a fundraiser for your refugee saviour organisation, or showcasing “exotic” cooking shows or “cultural” shows on “Refugee Week or “Refugee Day,” while refugees surviving persecution and abuse have to prove to the world that we can “assimilate”, “smile,” or be prepared to participate in social transactions that enable refugee organisations to make money or deliver an exotic cultural presentation to everyone. This is the wholesale package delivered by “Refugee Week” or Refugee Day”.

Do we still want to continue this vulture refugee industry? Is this about us or you? Nothing is surprising when the UNHCR sets the saviour complex bar within the refugee sector by running a patronising PR circus during World “refugee week/day”. When the world leader of refugee rights organisations functions like this, we can imagine that every other organisation will follow the same orientalist approach.

Meanwhile, the Australian government, and governments across the world are spending millions of dollars acquiring weapons and building their military – while blocking those of us fleeing from the destruction caused by these policies from seeking protection and the opportunity to rebuild our lives so we can look forward to a future.

In so-called Australia, racist refugee policies continue. eX-detainees who arrived 30 years ago have still not gotten citizenship, and/or have no access to humanitarian pathways for family reunion. As a result, 1000s of eX-detainee families arriving in Australia – kids and adult family members are not allowed to receive access to social security and many other support services to build a future, including Austudy or HECS. Each eX-detainee refugee needs to spend over $10,000 to bring family members to Australia. This adds another layer of trauma and oppression, on top of existing trauma and oppression, with many of us eX-detainees having to live with permanent disabilities caused by institutional abuse and torture by the Australian government’s detention system as well as the long-term damage caused to the families we have been separated from.

Eating our “exotic” foods, running refugee panel discussions, and sharing sad and “successful” refugee stories during “Refugee Week/Day” or a similar PR stunt on any other day, is not going to end mandatory detention, or intergenerational detention trauma in our community or end forced displacement or structural discrimination against those who are forcibly displaced or seeking protection.

What you can do instead

RISE eX-detainees
‘Nothing About Us Without Us’