It's Refugee Week (June 14–20), and Road to Refuge wants you to consider a question: what would it take for you to leave your home?

“I’ve always thought when a person knowingly risks their life on a rickety boat to find protection, that decision speaks volumes of the choices available to them,” says founder, Dana Affleck.

To kickstart this conversation, the not-for-profit has teamed up with more than 30 cafes around Melbourne, which will mark Refugee Week by stamping their takeaway coffee cups with an image of a young asylum-seeker girl.

“Layla is one of the Road to Refuge fictional asylum-seeker characters. She lives in the capital of Iran, Tehran, with her parents,” Affleck explains. “Layla’s father is a university professor who, along with her brother, becomes involved in a political campaign around women’s education.”

When her brother is abducted by the local authorities in response, Layla’s parents must decide what to do to protect their young family. Sadly, Layla’s story reflects the impossible decision many asylum seekers face.

Affleck says Road to Refuges hopes that when they look down at their morning coffee and see Layla, Melburnians will consider the human side of Australia’s asylum-seeker debate.

With more than 3500 people in immigration detention (172 of which are children), including more than 800 people who’ve been waiting for more than a year, it’s this vital empathy that is missing from the conversation.

“The coffee cups allow customers to engage as much or as little as they wish in this conversation but, at the very least, we hope it will plant an important seed,” Affleck says. “I think the most important question to ask is: ‘If I were in the shoes of an asylum seeker, what would I do to protect myself and my loved ones?’”

Road to Refuge believes that to answer this question honestly, people need to understand the realities of being an asylum seeker. On its website you can choose to trace the journey of Layla, Mano from Sri Lanka or Ali from Afghanistan.

To learn more about Layla’s story visit the Road to Refuge website.

Participating venues:

CBD and Inner North

Small Victories
617 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North

2Pocket Fairtrade
277 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne

Kinfolk
673 Bourke Street
Melbourne

STREAT
5 McKillop Street
Melbourne

Assembly
60 Pelham Street
Carlton

Everyday Coffee
33 Johnston Street
Collingwood

Friends of the Earth
312 Smith Street
Collingwood

Espresso Hub
655 Collins Street
Docklands

Addict
240 Johnston Street
Fitzroy

Mighty Boy
59-61 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy

Sir Charles
121 Johnston Street
Fitzroy

Dench Bakers
109 Scotchmer Street
Fitzroy North

Auction Rooms
103 Errol Street
North Melbourne

Counter
104 Errol Street
North Melbourne

Twenty & Six Espresso
594 Queensberry Street
North Melbourne

Long Street Coffee
45 Little Hoddle Street
Richmond

Northern Suburbs

A Minor Place
103 Albion Street
Brunswick

Brunswick Food Store
29 Weston Street
Brunswick

Brunswick Flour Mill
341 Sydney Road
Brunswick

Code Black Coffee
15-17 Weston Street
Brunswick

Carolina
11 Nicholson Street
Brunswick East

East Elevation
351 Lygon Street
Brunswick East

Milkwood
120 Nicholson Street
Brunswick East

Small Block
130 Lygon Street
Brunswick East

Wide Open Road
274 Barkly Street
Brunswick East

Little Deer Tracks
44 O’Hea Street
Coburg

North East

Myrtles Crepes & Coffee
60 High Street
Northcote

Eastside

Cru
916 Glenferrie Road
Kew

Haddons
27 John Street
Hawthorn

Westside

Cobb Lane
13 Anderson Street
Yarraville

Phat Milk
208 Mount Alexander Road
Travancore

So & So
206 Mount Alexander Road
Travancore