Worth reading & reflecting on 5 things we can learn from the case of a female Saudi teenager

The following was posted online by a respected group - the Combined Action Refugee Group (CRAG) which brings together people across the Geelong region in Victoria, from a variety of backgrounds (Refugee Support Groups, Church and Community Groups, Unions, Political Groups, Social Justice and Social Action Groups, students and individuals) united by the shared aim of advocating for a just, humane and welcoming policy towards refugees and people seeking asylum.

1. Refugees are people fleeing life-threatening persecution (based on race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion) which does not necessarily involve war. If they are returned, they will most likely be killed by their persecutors.

2. Even people who do have access to passports risk being detected by their persecutors if they use them. This is why people sometimes need to acquire fake passports and/or travel by boat (this, and the fact that some people don't have any access to passports in their countries of nationality in the first place).

3. Countries which are not signatories to the UN Refugee Convention do not provide protection for refugees. Thailand was about to hand Rahaf back to her persecutors. This is why people often need to pass through non-signatory countries (e.g India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia) in order to get to safety in a signatory country.

4. There is no queue for refugee resettlement. The idea of a world-wide, 'take-a-number' system is a complete myth. Interviews and assessments happen based on factors such as the available resources in any given place, the level of co-operation of 'hosting' (in this case detaining) governments, and the particular vulnerabilities of the refugees concerned. Resettlement only happens after assessments are complete, and when there are offers from signatory countries. This could take many, many years (as is the case for refugees currently waiting in UNHCR camps or places like Indonesia where there are few supports and constant risk of deportation), it could occur in a year or two (as was the case for the people Australia resettled from Syria), or it may be almost immediate (as in Rahaf's case). There is no set time-frame.

5. Refugees do not "country shop". According to the UN Refugee Convention, refugees should take the first offer of protection (i.e. being allowed to safely stay in a signatory country). Other offers may not come, and people can’t accept one offer for resettlement then apply for another (unless there is a subsequent case of persecution in the resettlement country). In Rahaf's case, she was on her way to Australia but Canada offered her resettlement while Australia was still thinking about it, and so she accepted. People seeking asylum often move through non-signatory countries which do not provide protection (Thailand in Rahaf's case), in order to get to safe signatory countries which do offer protection. All refugees want is freedom in a place that will be safe for them.