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Letters from Jewish Australia - No.54

AUSTCARE NATIONAL REFUGEE WEEK

By Corinne Desiatnik

October 12th, 1997

Corinne Desiatnik recently returned from a Somali refugee camp in Ethiopia.
AUSTCARE National Refugee Week kicks off today with a programme of events, entertainment and international guest speakers from 12-18 October, 1997, to focus on the alarming statistic that more than half of the world's refugees are children.

Over half a million refugees have been resettled in Australia since 1945 with arrivals coming initially from Europe and later predominantly from South East Asia and Latin America. The current year's humanitarian programme allows for only 10,000 entrants. The majority of whom will come from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East.

Having recently returned from a Somali refugeee camp in eastern Ethiopia, where the standard of living and services provided for the refugee population are a clear breach of international human rights, I strongly believe that refugee week is a time to encourage the Australian Government to fulfil its international obligations with regard to aid and support for refugees.

My support for Refugee Week stems from a belief that as Australians we should recognise the contributions that we have made to assist the international refugee situation as well as focus on what we still have to offer. Furthermore, we should celebrate the contributions made by refugees to the Australian community and culture.

The case of refugees aroung the world is no longer one of crisis intervention and of short term assistance. With numbers as high as 26 million we need to approach such issues as protection, support and development with durable solutions. Policies and initiatives that will help eliminate the roof causes of refugee problems as well as assist voluntary repatriation programmes is one such solution.

UNHCR and its implementing partners provide basic support for the refugee population such as protection, basic rations, water, shelter and limited edcuation. This relief work operates as short term interventions in the hope that political and other cause of displacement will change, even in places where camps have been established for over a decade. Education, skills training, improved health conditions and extensive community development work are strategies that a number of NGOs and organisations such as AUSTCARE have adopted in order to begin to address the need for durable solutions.

During my time in Ethiopia I worked in a newly established Community Centre for Women and witnessed the direct benefits of skills and literacy training. These benefits took the form of increased income generation, self sufficiency and most importantly, the women were given the opportunity to make a significant contribution to their community.

AUSTCARE National Refugee Week, through a diverse range of programmes and initatives, aims to increase understanding and awareness of refugees and displaced people around the world and recognise their need for protection, emergency support and development.

For further information about AUSTCARE National Refugee Week and ongoing programmes please contact AUSTCARE

Ph: 1800 2444 450 (Toll Free)

Email: info@austcare.com.au


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