20 June 2022

World Refugee Day 2022 comes at a historic moment in time, with 100 million people now displaced around the world and the number of countries affected by conflict double what it was a decade ago.

But it’s also marked by a positive milestone; record-breaking support from Australians.

This is Naomi Steer’s final World Refugee Day as the National Director of Australia for UNHCR after founding the organisation 22 years ago.

“I take my leave in what continues to be a year of incredible highs and lows. Lows because of the escalation of conflict that has resulted in massive global displacement. But highs because of the ongoing generosity of countless Australians and organisations supporting refugees and displaced people in what is the greatest humanitarian cause of our time,” Ms Steer said.

“After Kabul fell to the Taliban last year, we saw an incredible outpouring of support – with $10.8 million raised through our emergency appeal. That was the largest private-sector contribution to UNHCR’s response in Afghanistan from anywhere in the world.”

“Sadly, the Ukraine conflict began less than six months later however Australians have continued to give generously. The Ukraine appeal has now raised more than $13 million, the most money our organisation has raised for an emergency appeal in its 22 year history.”

The record-breaking contributions are a result of generosity from corporate donors, individuals and regional communities. Dozens of fundraising events have been held by communities across Australia, from farmers’ markets, to movie nights and school fundraisers – collectively raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As well as the escalating emergencies in Afghanistan and Ukraine, many more protracted crises are also upending the lives of millions of innocent people.

A new global study, carried out in collaboration with UNHCR, shows a greater public compassion for refugees since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict. The Ipsos survey found 83% of Australians surveyed agreed that people should be able to 'take refuge in other countries, including Australia, to escape from war or persecution'. This compares to 74% in 2021.

Naomi Steer said while this was positive, UNHCR remained committed to helping people from all conflicts as per the agency’s theme for this World Refugee Day; “Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to seek safety.”

“While global political will and leadership is required to end the multiple conflicts driving displacement, we all have a role to play in helping to meet the humanitarian needs of people caught up in crises beyond their control and, in doing so, also create a better and safer world for all of us,” Ms Steer said.

World Refugee Day is also an occasion to recognise the extraordinary resilience of people who have overcome huge challenges and are now thriving.

“These are people who had to get on leaky boats, wondering if they were going to drown. They fled from possible torture or execution. And now they are excelling in their field and making huge contributions in society,” Ms Steer said.

“We saw beautiful examples of this with the eight nominees of the inaugural Australia for UNHCR – SBS Les Murray Award for Refugee Recognition. They are people who fled dangerous situations – most of them with few possessions – and worked hard to build new lives for them and their families in Australia. They are all now giving back to help other people in the refugee community.”

This World Refugee Day, Australia for UNHCR is raising funds for protection activities, such as Blue Dot hubs, for refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Blue Dot hubs are safe spaces which have been established along border crossings in neighbouring countries. They offer services including child protection, children’s play spaces, psychosocial support and legal aid.

Of the approximately 7 million people who have fled Ukraine, more than 90 per cent are women and children who are at a heightened risk of violence, exploitation and trafficking.

Australia for UNHCR media contacts:
Alex Fisher: [email protected] 0498 998 018
Lisa Upton: [email protected] 0420 754 441

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