CAIRO – 20 June 2017: The world should open its hearts, minds and communities and stand #WithRefugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filipo Grandi said in an official statement Tuesday, World Refugee Day.
“Today we live in a world in which uncertainty often abounds; economic instability, political upheaval and violence close to home can make us want to shut our eyes or close our doors,” he said. “But fear and exclusion will not lead us to a better place - they can only lead to barriers, alienation and despair.”
He added, “It’s time to change this trajectory. And for the better.”
Inclusion, he said, “requires opening our minds, hearts and communities to refugees. It requires a whole of society approach – joining up students, business leaders, athletes, activists, religious leaders, politicians and artists - to share responsibility. And welcoming refugees cannot be at the expense of helping others, but should broaden support to all who need a hand.”
To mark the 2017’s World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) re-launched its 2016 campaign that includes a petition under the theme, “Tell the world YOU stand #WithRefugees.”
According to the UNHCR, “When we stand together with refugees we also stand for respect and diversity for all.” The campaign aims to improve the lives of 65.6 million refugees around the world.
In September 2016, global leaders agreed to work towards a Global Compact for refugees in 2018, wherein all parts of society stand together #WithRefugees and do their fair share instead of leaving individual states to bear the burden of mass forced displacement. The UNHCR petition calls on all governments to strengthen the international framework for refugee protection and reinstatement through global responsibility and solidarity. The UNHCR urges all governments to keep their promises and ensure every refugee child gets an education, every refugee family has somewhere safe to live and every refugee can work or learn new skills to support their families.
Messages on the World Refugee Day Prominent figures in fields ranging from football to entertainment were keen to show support to refugees and to draw attention to the human side of their stories. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett was joined by actors Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth and Jesse Eisenberg, and writer Neil Gaiman, to perform a spoken word poem in support of the #WithRefugees campaign.
The video is based on a rhythmic poem entitled “What They Took With Them” by Jenifer Toksvig. Toksvig was inspired by stories and first-hand testimonies from refugees forced to flee their homes and the items they took with them.
In addition, the UNHCR launched the #SignAndPass campaign on June 13 for refugee children in collaboration with FC Barcelona Foundation. The campaign stars a number of top soccer players across the world including Lionel Messi and Neymar.
Football star Cristiano Ronaldo collaborated with Save the Children to shed light on refugees.
The United Nations Department of Public Information launched an animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria, who achieved her dream to compete in the 2016Olympics. The video was produced to mark World Refugee Day and the International Day of Peace on September 21.
Furthermore, the UNHCR and Google launched the “Searching for Syria” website to give a comprehensive insight into the Syrian crisis with special focus on the status of refugees. The website sheds light on the human cost of the crisis and the humanitarian response to help Syrians who were forced to flee their homes in search of safe havens from the ongoing violence. It is built on data and stories from UNHCR and search trends from Google and other sources with the aim of providing answers to the most common queries people are asking about regarding the Syrian crisis. The answers are delivered through rich and immersive multimedia content, which is being produced by UNHCR and Google.
Information on refugees Every year thousands of families are forced to leave their homes due to natural disasters and conflict. They search for food, future and life. Many people travel to other countries and some lose family members on their journey. Some are separated from their families and some are living an insecure life in other places.
According to UNHCR 2016 global trends report, by the end of 2016 65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced due to conflict, violence or human rights violations. 22.5 million people were refugees at the end of 2016 - an increase of 300,000 people over the previous year. 2016 witnessed 40.3 million internally displaced people, and 2 million asylum-seekers. It is estimated that 51 percent of refugees are under the age of 18, as children make up an estimated 31 percent of the total world population.
Eighty-four percent of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries and the top five host countries for refugees are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and Ethiopia.
In addition, the number of people forced to flee has increased by more than 50 percent over the last five years, up from 42.3 million in 2012. According to International Law, refugees are not allowed to be forced back to the countries they have fled.
During 2016, 552,200 refugees returned to their countries of origin, most of them to Afghanistan.
The Syrian refugee crisis is the worst the world has seen since World War II.
The history of World Refugee Day: World Refugee Day is observed annually on June 20 to raise awareness on refugees’ situations across the world. World Refugee Day was declared by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly under Resolution 55/76 on December 4, 2000. The day was officially celebrated as an annual event starting 2001, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention Refugees status by the UN General Assembly.
The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key legal document that forms the basis of the UNHCR. The convention is ratified by 145 states, defines the term “refugee” and outlines the rights of the displaced, as well as the legal obligations of states to protect them.
The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is considered a rule of customary international law.
The UNHCR serves as the ‘guardian’ of the Convention and its 1967 Protocol. According to the legislation, States are expected to cooperate with UNHCR to ensure that the rights of refugees are respected and protected.
The 1951 Refugee Convention Conference - Curtosey of UNHCCR
World Refugee Day brings awareness to people to encourage and protect refugees around the world. It also aims to recognize the contribution of refugees to the world by sheding the light on their success and resilience stories.
To read more about refugees success stories visit: http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/