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Emergency resettlement: From one Saudi teen to millions of Syrian refugees

13 February 2019
6.00pm – 7.30pm AEDT
Allens, Level 28, Deutsche Bank Building, Corner Hunter and Phillip St, Sydney
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Emergency resettlement: From one Saudi teen to millions of Syrian refugees

Saudi teen Rahaf al Qunun captured world attention when she barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel room and claimed asylum. Within days, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) had determined she was a refugee and Canada rapidly offered to resettle her.

Between 2015 and 2017, Australia resettled a ‘special intake’ of 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees. This was a different, but no less important, emergency resettlement response to pressing humanitarian needs.

Both these cases show how countries can help refugees in urgent need of protection, thereby demonstrating international solidarity and responsibility-sharing.

But how, why and when do governments decide to offer resettlement – and to whom?

About the Speakers

Sophie McNeill joined ABC’s Four Corners in April last year after returning from a three year post in the Middle East reporting for the ABC. She has twice been awarded Australian Young TV Journalist of the Year and in 2010 won a Walkley award for her investigation into the killing of five children in Afghanistan by Australian Special Forces soldiers. She was nominated for a Walkley in 2015 for her coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis. She previously worked as a reporter for ABC's Foreign Correspondent and SBS's Dateline program and is a former host of triple j's news and current affairs program Hack. 

Khang Hoang is a Senior Protection Assistant at UNHCR in Canberra.  He is currently undertaking a PhD at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Sydney where his research examines the potential of additional or complementary pathways to refugee protection through the use of labour mobility. In particular, it examines how such pathways can be operationalized in the Australian context. He was formally an Associate Lecturer at the ANU Migration Law Program and has previously worked at the Refugee and Migration Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and as a Legal Officer of the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). 

Claire Higgins is an Award-winning historian. Her research focuses on in-country processing and refugee status determination in historical context. In 2018, under a  Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar, she continued her research at Georgetown University in the US undertaking comparative research in the alternative pathways for safe and orderly access to humanitarian resettlement. As a Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in 2017, Dr Higgins researched Italy’s innovative Humanitarian Corridors program which enables Syrian asylum seekers to safely claim protection in Italy. She completed her doctorate in history at the University of Oxford examined on the development of Australian refugee policy. Her first book is Asylum by Boat: Origins of Australia’s refugee policy (NewSouth 2017).