‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Today is World Refugee Day. According to the United Nations, every minute 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written that more than 68 million people around the world are refugees or internally displaced because of conflict or persecution. That is equivalent to the population of the world’s 20th largest country.
‘As long as there are wars and persecution, there will be refugees. On World Refugee Day, I ask you to remember them. Their story is one of resilience, perseverance and courage. Ours must be of solidarity, compassion and action,’ he said in a message to commemorate the day.
The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol help protect refugees, who are among the most vulnerable people in the world and, as Hall & Wilcox Pro Bono & Community Director Nathan Kennedy points out, legal assistance is vital for asylum seekers and refugees.
‘It is our law that determines refugee status yet people who come here seeking safety often do not speak our language or understand our laws. The motivation of lawyers to work pro bono in this area is a belief in access to justice and the rule of law and the fundamental right to seek and enjoy asylum,’ Nathan said.
Hall & Wilcox assists refugees on a pro bono basis through partnerships with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) and Refugee Legal.
‘We are committed to continuing to assist however we can to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are given a fair chance to make their claims and that determinations are made in accordance with the law.’
Hall & Wilcox is a supporter of a free special event in Melbourne to mark the day. Refugee Legal is hosting a lunch where a panel will address the question ‘It’s time: where to from here on refugee policy?’ Speakers include Professor Gillian Triggs, former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission; Erika Feller, former Assistant High Commissioner (Protection), UN High Commissioner for Refugees; and David Manne, executive director and principal solicitor, Refugee Legal.
The firm is also hosting a morning tea for RACS in the Sydney office on 22 June.