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Most Australians sympathetic towards refugees finds Red Cross survey

Monday June 21, 2010

Most Australians are sympathetic towards the plight of refugees with eight out of 10 people saying they would help a refugee to settle into their community, according to the results of an Australian Red Cross survey.

The survey of 1,000 people across Australia, released to coincide with Refugee Week (20 to 26 June), also found the majority of people (67%) agreed or strongly agreed that refugees have made a positive contribution to society.

"Red Cross is an impartial and neutral humanitarian organisation which has a responsibility to work towards the recognition and respect of humanitarian values. The survey found that the community empathises with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers," said Australian Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner. "Australians can relate, with 86% of people surveyed saying they too would flee to a safe country if they lived in a conflict zone and were under threat.

"Refugees and asylum seekers are very resilient. In spite of the extreme hardships and suffering they may have endured, they make a positive contribution to Australian society, economically and culturally, and it is important to understand the hardships refugees have endured."

The survey found 94% of Australians who said they would flee conflict or threat would use all their money and assets to get to a safe country. It also revealed 83% of Australians agree that those fleeing persecution should be able to take refuge in another country.

"Refugees and asylum seekers are ordinary people who have often endured extraordinary circumstances," said Mr Tickner. "From post-war Europe to Afghanistan, Australia is a country built on migration. Today's refugees and asylum seekers are just like us, and our similarities are greater than our differences. We must never forget their humanity.

"On this evidence there appears to be a disconnect between the strong sympathy of the Australian public and the unsympathetic nature of much of the public debate around asylum seekers and refugees," Mr Tickner said. "This is unfortunate because Governments of all persuasions over many years have heard and given effect to this will of the public through the humanitarian program which has accepted 12,000 to 14,000 refugees and humanitarian entrants each year."

The survey also revealed a lack of public understanding about the law concerning refugees and these issues will be further explored in later Australian Red Cross surveys.

Australian Red Cross is part of the world's largest humanitarian organisation, with more than 100 million volunteers in 186 countries. We are independent of government and have no political, religious or cultural affiliation. Australian Red Cross has been responding to disasters and crises at home and overseas for more than 90 years.

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Australian Red Cross survey results summary:

  • 86% of people would flee to a safe country, if they lived in a conflict zone and were under threat.
  • 94% of these people would use all their money and assets to get to a safe country.
  • 31% know of someone who has come to Australia escaping persecution or conflict in another country.
  • 83% agree that people fleeing persecution should be able to seek protection in another country.
  • 83% are willing to assist a refugee in their community settle in Australia.
  • 67% agree that refugees have made a positive contribution to Australian society.

Media contacts:
For media enquiries or to arrange interviews contact Australian Red Cross media adviser Kim Batchelor on 0457 542 113.