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Australia Sets Up Simulated Refugee Camp in Melbourne

A simulated refugee camp has been set up in Melbourne to show Australians the sort of hardship suffered by millions of people around the world. "Refugee Realities" is the work of the charity Oxfam. The camp is set in an artificial desert, with fake landmines and security checkpoints. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Visitors to the simulated camp in Melbourne are faced with the realities that confront millions of refugees around the world. How would they cope if they lost their home, their family and their means of finding food and shelter?

The demonstration aims to give Australians a greater understanding of those who have been displaced.

"This is a desert and it's also a landmine field," said the project's director Stephanie Cousins. "The idea in this space is to, I guess, give people a sense of how unsettling it would feel fleeing in a dangerous setting where they can't be sure of their footing. It's based on the true stories of former refugees now living in Australia."

Since the end of the Second World War about 675,000 people have been resettled in Australia under official humanitarian programs.

The government in Canberra accepts about 13,000 refugees every year.

Nyadol Nyuon arrived in Australia in 2004 and is studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was born in Ethiopia and spent 15 years living in a refugee camp in Kenya. She hopes that Oxfam's interactive program in Melbourne will help the Australian community appreciate the hardship she experienced.

"It actually brings tears to my eyes to realize I've gone through such a life, and now I'm in Australia, it makes me realize that finally you kind of have something that makes you more human," she said. "For the people that come here, I want them to look around and try to understand and try to kind of embrace the strength of refugee people, because it's only through embracing the strength that you can actually respect them."

Studies have found that many Australians have ambivalent attitudes toward refugees and asylum seekers. There are, though, many community groups dedicated to helping newcomers rebuild their often tattered lives.

Charities estimate that 34 million people are currently displaced because of war and crisis around the world.