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Australia Marks Refugee Week as Campaigners Urge for Better Policy  

FILE - A small group of protesters march in Sydney, June 13, 2020, during a day of demonstrations across Australia in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and refugee rights.

On World Refugee Day 2022, the United Nations’ refugee agency says 100 million people are currently forced to flee their homes around the world. Australia is recognized for its record-breaking donations to help victims of conflicts in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Developing nations host the vast majority of the world’s displaced people and refugees.

In 2020, Australia granted humanitarian visas to just over 13,000 people. Official data has shown that about 5,000 more places were not offered because of the pandemic.

The Australian Labor party, which won May’s election, has said it plans to “progressively increase” Australia’s refugee intake to 27,000 per year.

The Refugee Council of Australia, an advocacy organization, has said Canberra was “well placed to make a more significant contribution” to the resettlement of refugees.

Lawyer Danijel Malbasa, a former refugee who came to Australia fleeing conflict in the former Yugoslavia, says his adopted country can be more accommodating.

“I really think we are big enough and generous enough to be a welcoming country — just to look at our own history; after World War Two we took in 900,000 people. Many of us have refugee roots. You just need to look into your own family background. Refugees are not a problem. We are a resource,” said Malbasa.

Australia is marking Refugee Week from June 19 to June 25.

Travelers have been recalling the difficulties they experienced in Australia during more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions, including international border closures and strict lockdowns.

Bully Camara is an employment facilitator at Community Corporate, a social enterprise that helps refugees to find work.

He says many refugees lost their jobs during the pandemic, while others were concerned about the military imposing stay-at-home orders in Sydney and Melbourne.

“Seeing a soldier means to run away or seeing a soldier reminds them of what they ran away from. Seeing a soldier reminds them of the trauma or the difficulties that they have gone through. So, to come here and look through your window and see soldiers in uniform or policemen in uniform was not a good feeling for most of them,” he said.

The United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, has said that it has raised record amounts of donations in Australia in the past year for its appeals to help those displaced by war and unrest in Afghanistan and Ukraine.

Several thousand Ukrainians have also been offered temporary humanitarian visas by Australia. It is one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries.

Campaigners have insisted that refugees have played a key role in Australia’s multicultural success story.