Oxfam Australia is calling on the Australian Government to help bring more families together by creating a new family reunion visa stream for refugees, as global leaders gather in Geneva for the inaugural Global Refugee Forum.
The human rights organisation is also urging the Government to increase its overall humanitarian intake from a disproportionately low 18,750 people annually, to its fair share of 44,000 refugees by 2022-23 – with 10,000 of those places for family members of refugees already in Australia, and at least 22,000 places reserved for UNHCR-referred refugees.
Oxfam Advocacy & Campaign Manager Conor Costello said the forum in Switzerland brought together refugees (eight of them supported by Oxfam), governments, UN bodies, humanitarian agencies, civil society and business to develop new and more coordinated international responses to the global refugee crisis.
Ms Costello said it was the perfect opportunity for Australia to step up and commit to doing more to support people fleeing their homes in search of safe future for themselves and their children.
“A week out from Christmas, here in Australia many of us are busy making plans for the big day, and looking forward to a feast in the company of our family,” Ms Costello said. “But it’s important to remember that a very different reality exists for the more than 70 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes by war and conflict, of which more than 25 million are refugees who have fled their country in search of safety.
“Welcoming more refugees into our community is not only the right thing to do morally, but recent modelling by Deloitte Access Economics showed that refugees contributed significant benefits to the Australian economy and society.”
Ms Costello said the global processes for supporting refugees continue to be fatally flawed, with the responsibility being unfairly left to some of the poorest countries.Four-fifths of the world’s refugees are hosted in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda.
“The forum will focus heavily on how responsibility for the protection and promotion of the rights of refugees can be more fairly shared between states,” Ms Costello said. “For this to be meaningful countries, including Australia, must step up and commit to welcome more people, provide more reliable funding, and to fully include refugees in decisions about their futures.
“It’s great to see the pivotal expertise of refugees recognised with a strong contingent attending the forum. But we can do better. Oxfam and The Global Refugee Network have called on member states, INGOs and UN agencies to sign a single pledge to meaningfully engage refugees in all processes and decisions which affect them.”