Reflecting on Family and the Journey to Freedom this Refugee Week

June 19, 2024

In a world often overshadowed by displacement and uncertainty, what does family mean to you? For many, it’s a simple concept of belonging and security. But imagine losing everything, including the freedom for your family to be safe and together.

This year’s Refugee Week theme of Finding Freedom, with a particular focus on Family, invites us to reflect on the resilience, strength, and unity that is the refugee experience. It’s also a celebration of the transformative power of familial bonds, both by birth and chosen, in the face of adversity.

Refuge, Family and Freedom

The Asylum Seekers Centre is a family of dedicated staff and volunteers providing a place of welcome, practical support, and advocacy for people seeking safety. To mark Refugee Week, we invited three members of our Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC) family, Kasandra, Ekim, and Felicia to reflect on the themes of family and freedom.

Kasandra Lim, Centre Support Volunteer, reflects on the significance of family in her life. “Family is the foundation of who I am. Family represents strength, love, support, and unconditional sacrifices built over generations,” she shares.

Echoing this sentiment is Ekim Gozoglu, Welcome and Registration Coordinator at ASC, who cherishes her chosen family built on mutual respect and shared beliefs. She believes that family and freedom are intertwined.

“Freedom to me means living without fear, in peace, and in a safe environment, with my chosen family,” she says. For Ekim one cannot feel truly free to rebuild a new life without some sense of family support. “Family is as essential as accommodation, nutrition, and education,” she adds.

As an Intensive Support Caseworker at the ASC, Felicia Paul works directly with clients dealing with the anguish of family separation.

“The tears and sadness never cease, even after 10 years. I hear the deep sense of longing to be reunited with their loved one(s), the longing to hold their children, their anguish of missing out, of not seeing their children growing up, the worry for their parents as they age, and the self-recrimination because they cannot fulfill their sense of duty to their parents who have sacrificed and helped them.”

With more than 117.3 million people forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2023, refugee mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children are struggling to find homes free from persecution, conflict, and violence.

This global displacement crisis is coupled with a local poverty crisis for people seeking safety in Australia.

Felicia calls out the scarcity of support and the lack of safety net for people seeking asylum. “I have also witnessed the lack of access to support for families seeking asylum in Australia, especially after the years they have been waiting for an outcome, which often leads to them living on the poverty line.”

Belonging and Empowerment

The ASC bridges the gaps left by the government and provides wrap-around services to people seeking asylum. At the heart of this is the notion that family extends beyond immediate relatives.

“ASC services foster a sense of family by providing support that reaches beyond meeting an individual’s basic needs. ASC services create a welcoming and nurturing environment where everyone can feel a sense of belonging,” says Kasandra.

This caring environment is crucial for people seeking asylum, offering a beacon of hope. Ekim also believes that welcoming people seeking asylum and showing solidarity with their families empowers them and facilitates productive communities. “Happy people contribute to a happier society,” she adds.

Nonetheless, Felicia reminds us of the work left to be done. “The callous treatment of people seeking asylum and the prolonged waiting periods for processing claims are inhumane,” she states.

Felicia urges accountability, “If we see ourselves as a fair, just, and humane country, we must act to uphold those values for those who have no voice.”

Providing Refuge

Just as family forms the foundation of who we are, our collective compassion forms the foundation of a more inclusive and compassionate society.

As Kasandra states, “Individuals seeking asylum are human. They’re just like you and me. Welcoming people seeking asylum promotes solidarity and diversity, which enriches communities and also counters racism and xenophobia.”

In a world often overshadowed by displacement and uncertainty, Kasandra, Ekim and Felicia remind us to be a refuge of hope and to help families live in freedom.

Until 30 June, all donations to the Asylum Seekers Centre will be matched. This means every contribution will be doubled, providing even more support for those seeking safety without a safety net.

DONATE NOW to double your impact.

NSW Budget 2024 once again leaves people seeking asylum behind A Feast Of Cultures: Celebrating Refugee Week at ASC