Blog

The European Refugee Crisis – A Summary of the Facts

Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Half the country’s population — approximately 11 million people — have been forced to flee or unfortunately lost their lives.
Families are struggling to survive inside Syria, but the greatest dilemma is that there is nowhere to make a new home in neighbouring countries. Others are risking their lives on the way to European countries, in the hopes of finding safety.

So how did it begin?
Back in 2011, demonstrations began against the government. The government reacted harshly to these protests, and this resulted in the rebels fighting back against the violence.
By July, army defectors had organised the Free Syrian Army along with Syrian civilians taking up arms to join the fight. But the division between secular and Islamist fighters, and between ethnic groups, continues to complicate the conflict.

How many people are affected?
If the refugees of the world were to come together and form a country, they’d be larger than the UK. There are currently over 65 million people displaced across the world, and if conflicts continue, then this number will continue to grow.

Where are they going?
Wherever they can basically. With so many people without homes and countries, these people are risking their lives to find a place to call home. Below are rough figures of the countries that have welcomes refugees.

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Turkey – 2.5 million
Pakistan – 1.6 million
Jordan – 1.4 million
Lebanon – 1.2 million
Iraq – 250,000
Egypt – 133,000
Germany – 105,000 (but have pledged spaces for up to 800,000)
Greece – 88,000
Sweden – 40,000+
Canada – 25,000
Algeria – 25,000
Austria – 18,000+
Armenia – 17,000+
Australia – 8,700
United States – 7,000
United Kingdom – 5,000

What is Australia doing?
During the 2015-16 financial year, a total of 8640 Humanitarian visas were granted to people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq. While this is a step in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go.

Currently, those who come by boat are processed differently to those arriving by plane.

Australia pays for the processing of asylum seekers who are intercepted by the navy and then transported to other countries. The total cost for this policy is now $500 million and rising.

Recently, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed these inadequate facilities would be closed in the future. He said there is no timeline for closing the Nauru detention centre yet, but both countries would work towards it "as quickly as possible." Australia will give Papua New Guinea extra resources to cope with the transition and processing, but it is not known how much.

At the end of the day, perhaps we should start treating these people as the victims that they are and offering support rather than punishment.

Refugee Art – Expressing experience Through Creativity

Through refugee art that we can come to appreciate the power of determination and see the true strength in creativity.

Humankind’s ability to rise after a great struggle is quite remarkable. So many refugees, despite what they’ve left behind, have used their experiences to build a new life for themselves. Sometimes these past's are confronting but these are images all of Australia, and even the world, need to see.

We’ve found a few amazing refugee artists, but there are so many more talented people out there overcoming these struggles every day. Maybe it’s time we opened our eyes to them.

Kamaleshwaran Selladurai

Kamaleshwaran Selladurai is a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka. During his two years in Australian refugee centres, he spent time teaching himself to paint with no previous experience. In 2011, Kamaleshwaran was granted a permanent visa in Australia. He now lives and works in Sydney.

“Painting has changed my life. I have improved in my art, and I love to paint new and different subjects. I want to show how refugees feel in my painting and what the people in detention are going through. Everyone in detention misses their family, and the process is far too long.”

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Michael Adonai

Michael Adonai, a refugee from Eritrea, began his artistic career in the 1980’s. His coptic-style art reflects his experiences as a freedom fighter during the war in his home country. He has successfully held exhibits of his work all over the world – the UK, USA, Japan, South Africa, Sweden, Eritrea, Sudan, Singapore, Kuwait, Ethiopia and Italy. He now teaches fine arts and frequently exhibits his work in solo and group exhibitions in Australia.
‘As a refugee artist, [the] ECL program has given me the confidence that I can have a sustainable and successful career in the arts in Australia.’

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Alwy Fadhel

Alwy Fadhel was an asylum seeker detained for five years in the Villawood Detention Centre. His art consists of paintings made with instant coffee powder diluted in water. He was taught by an Iraqi detainee who had some knowledge of coffee art. The use of food as an artistic medium says a lot about the resources provided to human beings in these detention centres.

His works focus on some themes mainly of hardships that detainees commonly face; These include homesickness, anxiety, depression, and the trauma of witnessing others commit acts of self-harm and suicide.

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Murtaza Hussaini

Murtaza Hussaini, a refugee from Afganistan, has drawn upon his personal experience from the war-torn country to help launch a promising career as a portrait artist. Murtaza settled in Australia in 2009 after he and his family fled across the border to Pakistan before they were granted refugee status in Australia. Murtaza is now in his second year of a Visual Arts degree at the University of South Australia.
"It was around the time when there was a heated debate in Australian politics about the rights of asylum seekers, and I wanted to show that refugees have to overcome a lot of personal struggles to try and start a new life here and are not posing a threat to anyone."

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social enterprise

The Common Social – The Journey So Far

We’re officially halfway through The Common Social Campaign and we’ve come so far… but there’s still a long way to go.
We want to thank all the businesses and individuals that have supported us up until this point. You guys have all brought us one step closer to making this dream a reality – a dream where migrant and refugee youth unemployment is a thing of the past.
We thought we’d also let you know how the campaign is going. We have reached almost 30% of our goal of $25,000, with total donations currently sitting at $8,065 – an awesome feat for the foundation.
The Common Social is so much more than a money making venture. The cafe will create independence, sustainability, growth and long-term impacts for the refugee and migrant children and youth we support. It will not only prepare youth for the workforce, the profits The Common Social generates will also ensure all the programs of RMCC will continue to make a life changing impact. With every $50 that we raise, we can generate enough money and resources to support one child in our programs indefinitely. So $8,000 is certainly a good start.

social enterprise

The Common Social will provide hands-on hospitality training, work experience, guidance and employment opportunities to over 50 refugees, asylum seeker and migrant youth each year. It will also facilitate networking and mentoring opportunities with industry professionals.
This initiative is a long-lasting investment that will change people's lives from the ages of five all the way up until adulthood. Unfortunately, we do need significant funding to get this project off the ground.
We’ve gained some excellent press and exposure in our first few weeks. Our lovely CEO, Alice Wojcik, was featured in an article for the Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay Star Weekly and we heard her on air with the Thinker Girls live on KIIS FM! We also took part in Victoria University's O-Week events, with a stall set up to let local students know about the campaign.
While we are celebrating our wonderful achievements so far, our work is far from over. We encourage you to spread the news with your family and friends and invite them to donate. The Common Social Café still needs more support and you have the power to make that happen!
Share the campaign on your social media by linking to our crowdfunding page and let people know about this life-changing project!
https://chuffed.org/project/thecommonsocial
Thank you again for all that you have done so far. Your kindness will never be forgotten and you will always be a part of the Common Social Café.

A Place for Refugees in the Technologic World

Refugees are faced with so many challenges upon settling in their new home countries – the language, the culture, simply understanding how to get a job. And it’s the extra resources that people can use at their own pace that makes a world of difference. The technological world is so unavoidable in our society, so why not use it to our advantage? Some amazing volunteers have developed Apps and websites to lend refugees a helping hand whenever and wherever they need it and we’re all for it!

Refugees Welcome

Refugees-Welcome.net is an online platform where people wishing to lend their support can offer their private rooms as accommodation for refugees. This not only aims to help refugees with their living situation when they first arrive but also helps their integration into the culture and community of their new country.

The website is currently running in Germany, Austria, Greece, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden Poland and Italy.

InfoAid – Information for refugees on the Balkan Route

InfoAid is an app with up-to-date information for refugees travelling through south-east Europe. The app includes updates about the situation at the borders, weather reports, ferry strikes, transportation information, security advice, information for children travelling alone and so much more.

The app was developed and is now maintained by volunteers from Hungary as a donation to Migration Aid, a volunteer group based in Hungary. Its focus is to provide refugees with necessary and valid information on their travels and is completely separate to the Hungarian government. The reports are updated on a daily basis and are translated into English, Arabic, Farsi, Greek, Pashto, Urdu.
This App works in Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia

RefuChat

RefuChat is an app for communication between aid workers or paramedics and Arabic-speaking refugees. It lists some useful phrases and can also be used with the live translation function. This feature translates written and spoken text - a particularly useful resource when language barriers present themselves.

Although this App was created with the intention to bridge the gap between medical staff and refugees, the live translation tool is useful for any refugee struggling with their new language.

Refuchat supports languages including German, English, Arabic, Farsi, French, Spanish, Turkish and Greek. This App is available on Android and iPhone.

Refunite

Refunite.org is an online platform with a mission to reconnect refugee families across the world with their missing loved ones. Refunite is a fully independent not for profit technology organisation. They aim to empower refugees to search for their missing relatives through mobile, computer or free help lines. In order to achieve this, Refunite has collaborated with mobile network partners and the UN.
Refunite.org currently has projects in nine countries - Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Philippines.
Website: https://refunite.org/

Speakfree

Speakfree is an anonymous chatting app that enables refugees to get in contact with other refugees or supporters. The challenge of not knowing anybody in your new home makes it difficult to integrate into society. With this chat, refugees can talk to people in full confidence to find the answers to their questions.
The App is available in eight languages - English, German, French, Arabic, Russian, Urdu, Dari and Tigrinya.

It is also available on iPhone and Android.

It’s so incredible that amazing people put their skills to use to help out those in need. Technological aid means that refugees can use these services in their own time and at their own pace, not in a 9-5 environment where they need to make appointments or schedule in classes.

Hopefully, in the future, we’ll see more amazing people developing ideas to make the transition for refugees all that bit easier and we’d love to see more make their way to Australia.