Friday, August 31, 2012

Millions of people can’t go back to where they came from


This week SBS broadcast the second series of Go Back to Where You Came From featuring a cast of celebrities experiencing first-hand the daily reality of life for millions of refugees around the world. Their experience is a brief glimpse about what it’s like to live under the daily threat of attack in Mogadishu or to just try and survive in remote and barren refugee camps in Ethiopia.

Supporting refugees and displaced people in these crises situations is the core work of Australia for UNHCR.Our donors have been major funders of emergency relief in Somalia, Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Sometimes it is difficult to get your head around the sheer size of displaced populations we are dealing with. For example as at 15 August 2012, there were 165,081 individuals and 40,187 households in the Dollo Ado camps featured in the SBS series. That’s the equivalent to a city the size of Cairns!


Dollo Ado is actually made up of a number of  refugee camps (Bokolmanyo, Melkadida, Kobe, Hilaweyn, and Bur Amino). They sit very near the border with Somalia, in the Somali or “Ogaden” region of Ethiopia.

In October I'll be travelling to Dollo Ado to see first hand how your support is helping to improve the lives of refugees. It also provides us with an opportunity to report back to our generous supporters on what has changed since last year’s Horn of Africa appeal.

Aden Yusuf Kabey, 22, soon after arriving
at the Dollo Ado refugee camp last year
suffering from severe malnutrition.
I hope to share with you more stories like Kabey’s. A year after the onset of the Somalia famine, 22 year old Kabey can laugh at the pain he endured. He has regained the body weight he lost over the past year. He can walk, eat and sleep. "I've come back from the dead. Now I want to have a future and take full advantage of my life. I'm even handsome," he said. You can read more about Kabey’s journey here.

You might also remember the Masudi family who featured in the first series of Go Back to Where You Came From. Earlier this year I visited Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and managed to track down Deo Masudi, who remains in the camp stoic but hopeful that some of the spotlight from the SBS Series will mean his situation might change for the better.

Kakuma’s population, including the Masudi family, are facing increased pressure on infrastructure and resources as the camp population has surpassed it’s capacity of 100,000. Next month, we will be launching a new appeal to help improve water and sanitation in Kakuma.
Keep an eye on our
website for more details.

A father's story
On the domestic front, this weekend is Father's Day. This gave me cause to reflect on the many stories I have heard from former refugees about their fathers.

These are stories of separation, of sacrifice and sometimes of surprise reunions. Kizito’s story is just one of many beautiful videos that can be viewed at UNHCR’s You Tube channel. Kizito has been on an incredible journey over nine years of separation from his wife and daughters, and his inspiring commitment to his own ageing father.



If you'd like to give your Dad an alternative gift this Father's Day, you can buy him a last minute gift which will help form part of the World's Biggest Relief Package. Much better than unwanted socks and ties!

Stay tuned for our next update where we’ll share with you how a team of young professionals are preparing for a special fundraising ride through Vietnam and Cambodia to raise money for refugees, and news on some Australians on the frontline with UNHCR in Lebanon and Jordan helping the influx of refugees from the ongoing crisis in Syria.

Naomi Steer
National Director

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  1. Australia for UNHCR, I just wanted to say that being an avid supporter for Refugees I was really glad to read this blog post/ Article that you wrote about that SBS program "Go back to where you came from." I don't think many people realise that the majority of the media coverage surrounding refugees is mostly revolving around the negative stigma held against "boat people." Usually they bring up the legal aspect of it saying that we are "STILL" trying to find a solution (Like they are a burden/problem). I think by this three part series coming out, Australia is finally able to see just why we need to extend our compassionate hand to these people because of the conditions they live in. I understand fully now what it means to not judge until we walk in someone else's shoes. There are a lot of ignorant and cruel racist people out there who only think about themselves instead of making another person's life better. The part I particularly liked in this series is that they brought prominent Australian figures into the journey of a refugee where by they were able to experience what it feels like to have nothing and to try to fight for something. I was shocked over the statistics of refugees and detention centers and the whole journey. I recommend this program be compulsory for all Students to watch because it is fantastic in helping raise awareness of the refugee situation from another angle other then the negative medias portrayal - Lauren Tesolin

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  2. This is such an important issue. The program “Go back to where you came from” is definitely an eye-opener. The fact that the show has gotten celebrities on board to experience first-hand the daily experiences of the life for refugees is interesting and would definitely attract viewers. I really admire the work Australia for UNHCR does for asylum seekers and displaced people. If only the public would realise and come to terms with the harsh realities refugees are facing then somehow the lack of empathy and ignorance could be eradicated.

    The amount of support refugees need is unmeasurable. The knowledge of facts is the first step to an understanding of refugee circumstances. Hopefully what follows is showing compassion and greater public support. These people are fighting for their life and risking everything for a better one. Living in a great country with adequate resources, health care and services, I could not imagine what asylum seekers are going through. I just know that no one should feel alone or deprived of their human rights. Refugees are people too.

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