Resources Lesson 1: What Can We Do?

We have described the size of the refugee and asylum seeking problem globally, the health problems faced by this group and some of the politics surrounding the issue.

Now, what can we do?

How to alleviate the refugee crisis (The Economist). “Our response will be the measure of our humanity,” writes Angelina Jolie, an actor and special envoy of the UNHCR, on the occasion of World Refugee Day (2018). "..we must find ways to lower the number of displaced people worldwide, by preventing and solving the conflicts that drive them from their homes. We must try to rally people and nations to act together based on common interests and universal aspirations for security, dignity and equality: understanding that this does not come at the expense of our safety and economic well-being at home, but is an essential requirement when facing problems of international dimensions."

There are some suggestions from UNHCR and Amnesty International:

UNHCR Solutions suggests:

  • Voluntary repatriation may be one solution for refugees who have made the brave decision to return home.
  • Resettlement in another country is one alternative. However, of the 20.4 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world, less than one per cent is submitted for resettlement.
  • Integration within the host community. This is often a complex process which places considerable demands on both the individual and the receiving society. However, it also has benefits, allowing refugees to contribute socially and economically. Over the past decade, 1.1 million refugees around the world have become citizens in their country of asylum.

Amnesty International suggests in its Ways to welcome page: Prime ministers and presidents have lots of solutions at their fingertips for solving the global refugee crisis – here are some of them. But while most governments turn their backs, people worldwide are finding clever and creative ways to welcome refugees using their local networks, skills and generosity.

  • Grant people access to asylum. Everyone should be allowed to enter another country to seek aylum – it’s a human right. The process should be fair and effective, but in reality many governments leave asylum-seekers without a final answer for years. Others are sent back to countries where their lives could be in real danger.
  • Sponsor refugees. Some countries allow groups of people to organise and raise money to bring refugees to their country and help them settle in. Nearly 300,000 people have come to Canada through sponsorship since the 1970s, and more countries, including the UK, Australia and Ireland, are gearing up to follow suit.
  • Reunite families. Having close family around can make all the difference to people adjusting to a different life and culture, often while recovering from deep trauma. Governments have an obligation to let refugees join family members who are already settled abroad through family reunification.
  • Provide medical visas. Refugees who have a serious medical condition can get life-saving treatment – if governments decide to grant them visas to a country where they can access it.
  • Allow people to study. Universities and schools can offer refugees visas to start or carry on their studies in another country. This opportunity can turn people’s lives around through completing their schooling, integrating, making a living and contributing to society. According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, only 1 per cent of refugees currently attend university. A staggering 3.7 million refugee children and teenagers are not in school right now - five times the global average.
  • Embrace technology. A smartphone can be a lifeline if you’ve had to leave everything else behind, lost touch with friends and relatives, or are trying to find your way in a new country. Amnesty recently found that one of the top things refugees search for online is information about their own situation and the solutions open to them. Many tech-savvy groups are responding to that need through innovative projects ranging from online phrasebooks to smartphone recycling and launching start-ups for refugees.
  • Help newcomers settle in. Anyone who has lived abroad knows how difficult it can be to learn a new language, make friends, understand the culture, find somewhere to live or a new job. That’s why integration is paramount for refugees
  • Offer work visas or employment. For many refugees, getting a job is a vital solution to their problems. As well as surviving and supporting their families, it helps people maintain their self-respect and independence, and to integrate in a new community. Many countries offer refugees work permits.
  • Scale up resettlement. This is a crucial way that governments can protect refugees who need it most – people who have been tortured, for example, or women at risk of abuse. But it’s a heavily underused solution. Right now, around 1.2 million people urgently need resettlement, but only 189,300 refugees got the chance in 2016. And only 30 countries currently offer this option.

Personal action: Here are some ideas:

Inform yourself - this is the goal of this Open Online Course, which we hope has helped. You, the reader, may want to promote the course, or send some of the resources in the course, to others.  There are many other ways to keep informed and plenty of other sources to identify .

Become an advocate -

  • Through professional groups or as an individual. Many professional bodies have taken an advocacy or information role.
  • Advocate for individual patients or families
  • Advocate within your own organisation to ensure appropriate treatment of refugees and asylum seekers
  • Advocate through politics - influencing politicians, voting at elections, signing petitions

Offer education - if you are a teacher

Perform research - if you are a researcher, you will know the power of research  to frame and explore healthcare issues.

Support specific services and charities - there are many organisations trying to improve the care of refugees and asylum seekers.

This is only a snapshot of organisations committed to improving the health of refugees and asylum seekers, and the focus has been on Australia. There are also a number of international orgainsations - we pick out Physicians for Human Rights in the US, and the Refugee Council of Australia, Refugee Council of New Zealand, Amnesty International, and the International Rescue Committee.

Last modified: Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 9:17 AM