Today is World Refugee Day, an international day introduced by the United Nations to honour the strength and courage of refugees and raise awareness of their situation globally. Statistics from the Refugee Council of Australia indicate Australia has resettled or permanently protected 18,750 refugees in the last year and over 900,000 since 1947. Sadly, there are always more people seeking asylum because their life or freedom is threatened.

Refugee, Asylum Seeker, or Migrant?

The terms ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’, and ‘migrant’ are often used interchangeably but actually have different meanings legally. Definitions can vary slightly but generally, a refugee is someone who has sought protection outside their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution or because their lives have been threatened by events that have disturbed public order.

An asylum seeker is someone who has sought protection as a refugee but is waiting for their claim to be assessed by the country they have applied to move to. The term ‘migrant’ also has multiple definitions and meanings, but in Australia,  it usually refers to a person who has chosen to relocate but could return to their home country safely if they wished to. Referring to a refugee as a migrant is considered to minimise their reasons for leaving their home country and inability to return.

Refugees in Australia

While Australia aims to assist refugees, its current policies and procedures are often deemed controversial with many campaigns created to encourage change. Since 2012, the government has sent refugees to detention centres offshore while their applications are processed. Many refugees eventually receive visas and successfully resettle in Australia, but they may experience additional trauma, uncertainty, and upheaval from their time in these centres.

Common Psychological Issues

When refugees seek support from the Australian government, they are not just managing past traumas but also the uncertainty of the future and disorientation from being detained or in a new country with different cultures, procedures, and languages.

A number of organisations and services work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to  manage refugees’ mental health difficulties, including commonly diagnosed disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They also assist with their adjustment and assimilation into a new country.

PsychMed regularly work with individuals in all stages of the asylum seeking process. We also organise workshops in collaboration with key partners to raise awareness and educate professionals about understanding and treating mental health difficulties often experienced by refugees. Call us on 8232 2424 to find out more about our services or upcoming training events.

Education or Donation

To understand more about refugees and Australian policies or to contribute to a campaign, check out the links below.

Refugee Council of Australia – www.refugeecouncil.org.au

Amnesty International – www.amnesty.org.au/refugee-rights

Australian Red Cross – www.redcross.org.au/get-help/help-for-migrants-in-transition

Roads to Refuge – www.roads-to-refuge.com.au/refugees-australia/supporting-arrival.html