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TIME’s Refugee Health Project

As the world refugee population approaches 50 million, Australia takes approximately 1 refugee per 1,000 population which only ranks 68th in the world (UNHCR Global Trends Report). However, this has not stopped the issue of refugees and asylum seekers from being one of contemporary Australia's most divisive issue. This has been strongly reflected in our medical student population and TIME's refugee projects has always drawn huge amounts of interest from students. TIME has long recognized the importance of promoting refugee health and has established these long term objectives:

  • To raise awareness about critical refugee health issues including preventive health, mental health and the epidemiology of infectious disease among the UQ community
  • To build relationships with refugee communities in Queensland through collaborations with organizations such as the Multicultural Development Association (MDA), Healthy Start/HOPE4HEALTH and AMSA for Refugee and Asylum Seeker Mental Health(AFRAM).
  • To equip UQ medical students with a sense of social responsibility and an effective skill set to better address refugee health issues that will inevitably appear in medical practice of all specialties.

In 2014, TIME continued some of it's long standing projects including the Health Start project, a tri-uni collaboration that aims to provide preventative health education to newly arrived refugees in Queensland. We also pursued new opportunities including providing selected students who displayed a high affinity and understanding of the importance of refugee health the ability to visit the Brisbane Detention Center to meet currently detained refugees. This provided an invaluable chance for our students to learn more about living conditions in Nauru and Manus Island as well as the difficult journey many refugees have faced in order to get to Australia. The AFRAM movie seminar and the MDA Lantern Parade Walk for refugees were adjuncts that provided additional opportunities for our students to get more involved.

Information pertaining to some of the above listed events can be found below:

Background

  • As defined by the United Nations, a refugee is a person who: “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.
  • An asylum-seeker is someone who says that he/she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated. If they are not judged through proper procedures not to be refugees or in need of international protection, they can be sent back to their home countries.
  • At the beginning of 2009, the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated there were 10.5 million refugees worldwide, down 8% from 2008. In addition to this, an estimated 4.7 million refugees are looked after under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which was set up to care for diplaced Palestinians. More than half the refugees under UNHCR are in Asia and 22% in Africa, living under conditions varying from well-established camps to living in the open.
  • At January 2009, the UNHCR estimated that there were 20,919 refugees living in Australia.
  • Refugees settling in Queensland come from a wide variety of countries but most recently have arrived from a range of African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries.
  • Refugees present with a wide variety of health conditions related to their refugee experience (for example, torture and trauma issues) and related to their experience living in a refugee camp (for example, disease acquired due to lack of clean drinking water, malnourishment and chronic illness resulting from lack of access to quality health care service).

For more information, check out the following resources: