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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 10:50 GMT
Melbourne 'refugee camp' opened
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Visitors to the simulated refugee camp are questioned as they register for food rations (Photo credit An Bao/Oxfam)
Visitors have to go through the process of registering for food.
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, set in a fictitious desert, with fake landmines and security checkpoints.

Visitors are faced with the realities that confront millions of refugees.

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

How would they cope if they lost their home, their family and their means of finding food and shelter?

"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 give people a sense of how unsettling it would feel fleeing in a dangerous setting where they can't be sure of their footing.

I want them to look around and try to understand, and try to embrace the strength of refugee people
Nyadol Nyuon

"It's based on the true stories of former refugees now living in Australia."

Since the end of World War II, about 675,000 people have been resettled here under official humanitarian programmes.

Nyadol Nyuon arrived in Australia in 2004. She was born in Ethiopia and spent 15 years living in a refugee camp in Kenya.

She hopes that Oxfam's interactive scheme in Melbourne will help the community appreciate the hardship she experienced.

"It actually brings tears to my eyes to realise I've gone through such a life, and now I'm Australian, it makes me realise that finally you have something that makes you more human.

"For the people that come here, I want them to look around and try to understand, and try to embrace the strength of refugee people, because it's only through embracing the strength that you can actually respect them."

In the past studies have indicated that many Australians have ambivalent attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers.

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

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