‘Refugees should be at the centre of discussions that relate to us’: BSL’s Joseph Youhana takes an empowering message to the UN
6 July 2018
Joseph Youhana brings a unique perspective to his work at the Brotherhood of St Laurence: he has been a refugee and has now stepped up to assist refugees to settle in Australia. This week he returned to work in Melbourne’s north after attending a major United Nations conference in Geneva, Switzerland, exploring the challenges experienced by refugees.
As a community leader, Joseph took part in the 2018 United Nations Annual Consultations with Non-Government Organisations, providing a professional and personal perspective on a key humanitarian challenge for our times.
In his day job with the Brotherhood, Joseph oversees several of our programs which assist people of refugee, migrant and asylum seeking backgrounds as Settlement, Youth and Families Programs Manager with our Multicultural Communities Team.
‘I was born and raised in Iraq and back in 2004, my family and I were forced to flee the country due to persecution against minorities, personal threats and lack of security,’ he says. ‘We sought asylum in Syria between 2004 and 2006 where we applied to the United Nations for a refugee visa. We would have been happy to be placed anywhere, as long as we could be secure and live in peace, with freedom and dignity.
‘After a few attempts, we were fortunate to receive Australian refugee visas and arrived in Melbourne on July 25th, 2006. I’ve made a great life for myself, and I’m really excited to have started work with the Brotherhood of St Laurence at the start of this year, working with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, many who arrived as refugees, migrants or as people seeking asylum.’
At the invitation of the Refugee Council of Australia peak body, Joseph has also participated in the conference in previous years, and sees it is a platform to raise significant questions with United Nations officials, including the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
In addition to the UN conference, Joseph was one of 68 community leaders of refugee background to take part in the Global Summit of Refugees, also held in Geneva. The summit aims to develop more effective global refugee policy, and build a network of refugee-led organisations and advocates, to coordinate future activities and share best practices. This year’s theme was #NothingForUsWithoutUs.
The theme highlights that refugees should always be at the centre of discussions that relate to us,’ says Joseph.
The UN refugee agency’s annual Global Trends report shows the depth of the challenge with an average of one person displaced every two seconds in 2017, with developing countries most affected by these humanitarian emergencies.