The United Nations designated June 20 each year as World Refugee Day in order to highlight the needs, rights, and desires of refugees who have fled their homes in order to escape persecution and conflict. The goal is to keep the focus on the plight of refugees until ways to improve their lives are found so that they not only survive but thrive.
The first observation of World Refugee Day was in 2001, to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.
Refugees face a number of challenges even after they have managed to escape the countries they left because of persecution, conflict, natural disaster, or other circumstances that interfere with public order. Outside of the environments they knew, finding a doctor or schools for their children or safe areas for their children to play are new challenges. Resettlement to a permanent location may take years, putting refugees in a state of limbo with regard to their education, health, and safety.
This year’s UN Refugee Agency’s theme for World Refugee Day is Together We Heal, Learn, and Shine which emphasizes the power of inclusion. Whether refugees are in temporary camps or have been resettled into permanent residences, making sure they receive high quality health care, education for both children and adults, and opportunities to participate in sports and other creative activities is essential to creating a path for them to contribute to society.
World Refugee Day offers us all an opportunity to build our empathy for others through sharing the stories of refugees, especially the stories of their successes, such as those linked below.
- Seven refugees making a difference during the time of COVID-19
- Young Ivorian artist designs 2020 World Refugee Day emoji
- Three performers with refugee backgrounds participate in Eurovision 2021
- Young artists drew a world where kindness defeats COVID-19, animated by UN High Commission for Refugees
- Helping vulnerable children find their inner hero
For more information about how you can get involved in observing World Refugee Day in a meaningful way, check out the UNHCR’s website. You can also join in a Facebook Live Panel Discussion, Welcoming Refugees on Friday, June 18, at 9 a.m. PDT.