World Refugee Day 

Thursday 20 June 2019

A Reminder of the Importance of Acceptance and Inclusion of Refugees in Our Communities and Workforce
Brought to you by AmCham's Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Article by Teresa Liu, Managing Partner Australia and New Zealand, Fragomen and Vice Chair of AmCham’s NSW Diversity and Inclusion Committee


World Refugee Day is held on June 20th each year and seeks to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees who are forced to flee from their home due to well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.  In 2019, the UN Refugee Agency further continues its June 2016 launch of #WithRefugees which seeks greater engagement with governments to support the plight of refugees. 

Recent levels of global displacement have been unprecedented. The United Nations estimates that in 2019 there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people, with almost of 1.4million refugees who will need to be resettled. 

As a leader in a worldwide law firm dedicated to immigration, and proudly representing a firm rated in the American Lawyer Diversity Scorecard as No.1, Refugee Day is an important date in my calendar. 

In Australia, the recent public and political debate about the appropriate size of Australia's permanent migration intake, as well as Australia's regional processing arrangements by way of offshore detention and processing and health and safety concerns, has renewed interest in Australia's migration policy and its processing framework.

While Government will reduce the planning level of the Migration Program from 190,000 to 160,000 places for four years from 2019-20, it is unclear what the planning levels might be under the Humanitarian program. In the 2018-19 program year, however, 18,750 places were afforded. This represented an increase from 16,250 in the 2017-2018 year and was the second largest Humanitarian Program since the Hawke Government. An additional 12,000 places were also provided as a result of people displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq. This reflects not only Australia's international protection obligations but the need to be flexible and responsive to changing and emerging humanitarian situations that have unfolded. Since World War 2 ended, more than 800,000 refugees and displaced persons have been accepted into Australia, and Australia ranks No.3 in the world with respect to refugee resettlement.

The American Chamber of Commerce's Diversity and Inclusion Committee fully recognises World Refugee Day and our own obligations as corporates and individuals to the plight of refugees and displaced people, and the positive contributions that refugees make to society. As employers, peers, and in our local communities, AmCham is supportive of ways that both Government and local communities can include and take benefit from the skills and experience of refugees who have been accepted into Australia and are seeking a new start in life. 
There are well known people in Australia who have come from a refugee background in science, the arts, technology, law, property, sport and so on- people such as Harry Triguboff, John Hemmes, Richard Pratt, Frank Lowy, Tan Lee, Anh Do, Les Murray, and the Honorable James Spiegelman. Despite this, there remains a level of stigma with the word "refugee" for those forced to flee their home and as they seek employment and to be part of our Australian society. 

In 2019, the Diversity and Inclusion committee with the strong support of AmCham have further made inroads into keeping the issues of diversity in gender, age, culture, LGBTIQA+, and diverse ability alive and in seeking an inclusive environment. In the mix of this, World Refugee Day is a reminder that diversity and inclusion also further extends out to this group and that refugees form an important piece in the fabric of our society and our values, positively contributing to our economy, society and culture. 
How will you and your company Stand#WithRefugees and support changing attitudes and a truly inclusive environment ?