Women waiting for food distribution at Farchana Camp in Chad, Central Africa. Photo: Jane Beesley/Oxfam Photo: Jane Beesley/Oxfam

Refugees

Wars today are increasingly fought in ways that harm civilians. These conflicts force ordinary people from their homes, as they desperately search for safety and protection from violence and intimidation.

Some cross international borders and become refugees; while others move to safer areas within their own country as internally displaced persons.

The reality of being a refugee is inconceivable to most of us.

People become refugees or displaced people for a number of reasons:

  • They’re forced to flee persecution for their political or religious beliefs, ethnicity, nationality or membership of a particular social group
  • They’re compelled to leave as a result of war
  • People can also be displaced because of “natural” disasters, occurring increasingly as a consequence of climate change

And often they are forced to flee to other countries to seek asylum where they may face further racial discrimination and similar problems caused by lack of acceptance.

As if they haven’t suffered enough.

All refugees and internally displaced people have the right to receive assistance; the right to protection from abuse and the freedom to seek asylum. These rights were enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the basis of all human rights laws and conventions, which applies to everybody, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

What Oxfam is doing

Advocating for people’s rights

We seek to ensure that the systems and laws designed to protect and help people in times of crisis are doing what they’re supposed to. Often this means putting pressure on governments to respect and act according to their obligations.

We advocate that people in crisis situations have rights to asylum, obtain assistance and be protected from abuse.

We support and continue to advocate for the principle of the Responsibility to Protect. This principle makes it the responsibility of individual governments and the international community to protect civilians from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Protecting people in crisis

All people have the right to be protected from human rights violations, but during times of armed conflict people’s safety and security is often threatened.

Eighty per cent of the world’s refugees are women and children, and violence against women, including rape, has become commonplace in conflicts worldwide.

We aim to protect people in crisis situations by helping to set up displaced people’s camps in ways that improve public safety.

Appropriate camp lighting, positioning of toilets, creation of special areas for vulnerable people such as unaccompanied women and children – all can reduce people’s vulnerability to harm.

Find out more about our humanitarian work with internally displaced people in Darfur (Sudan) and Timor-Leste.

Bringing the message home

Between 2008 and 2011 Oxfam ran the Refugee Realities simulation project that put Australians in the position of a refugee or internally displaced person trying to find safety and a long-term solution. Find out more about the project and download online resources from the Refugee Realities archive website.

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