Under cover of darkness, Ali and his family crept from their home, seeking to escape the hell of life in Mosul, Iraq.

Tragically, armed men caught sight of the group and began shooting indiscriminately. It’s believed all of Ali’s family were killed and his family’s home was destroyed in retaliation. Ali now lives in a large shelter for unaccompanied minors in a UNHCR refugee camp. His future is very uncertain.

Today is World Refugee Day, an opportunity to learn more about the world’s alarming global refugee crisis and be challenged in our comfort or bias.

Behind the sobering statistics are real people with terrible stories, who yearn for what I take for granted – safety, security, dignity, peace, a home and a future.

Today 82.4 million people are forcibly displaced across the globe, with more than 40% being under 18. Of these people, 26.4 million are refugees and 4.1 million people are seeking asylum. And unfairly, developing countries carry the burden for 86% of refugees.

The big numbers can foster a feeling that there is little we can do to make a difference.

But we can all open our eyes and hearts to the practical needs of refugees and asylum seekers in our local communities. We can make a financial gift, volunteer or join a campaign [Check out https://asrc.org.au and https://www.unrefugees.org.au]

We can also grow in awareness, being better informed on the issues. And we can be heard, advocating for more compassionate and generous refugee and aid policies. We can let our MPs know we want an end to toxic refugee politics.  

Today we can also celebrate the amazing contribution of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia – we are a better nation for those who found refuge here! Best of all, we can share at the same table and celebrate life together.

And on World Refugee Day, let’s not forget the 239 people who are still detained in PNG and Nauru and 100 in detention facilities in Australia, despite being brought here for urgent medical treatment. It’s time to end this horror, once and for all.