UNCHR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, says World Refugee Day is “an occasion to build empathy and understanding” for the plight of refugees and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives.
U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement Sunday, “Today, I join people around the globe in commemorating World Refugee Day, a day when we recognize the courage and humanity of the millions forced to flee violence, persecution, and war.”
Biden also said, “On this day, we reaffirm our sacred commitment to alleviate suffering through humanitarian relief, and redouble our efforts to achieve lasting solutions for refugees—including through resettlement. We also recommit to engaging in diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the ongoing conflicts that compel refugees to seek safety elsewhere.”
There are more refugees today than there have ever been, UNHCR reports, despite the restrictions and closures imposed on people and countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNHCR said in a statement that, “the number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million,” a number representing a “4% increase on top of the already record-high 79.5 million at the end of 2019.”
“And what is quite shocking,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner Gillian Triggs told Muhabarishaji’s Laurel Bowman, “is that over the last 10 years the numbers of people who are refugees or forcibly displaced has more than doubled. Something like 48% are children or youths, so we really have generations of children who are separated from their countries of origin.”
UNHCR urges the world to remember that “Behind each number is a person forced from their home and a story of displacement, dispossession and suffering. They merit our attention and support not just with humanitarian aid, but in finding solutions to their plight.”
World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time on June 20, 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the U.N. General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.