World Refugee Day 2020

Some facts and figures…

Every day 44,000 people are forced to flee their homes because of conflict or persecution

68.5 million people around the world (more than the population of the UK) are displaced

Each day in 2018, six people died trying to cross the Mediterranean

57% of refugees worldwide are from just three countries — South Sudan (at least 2 million displaced as a result of the Civil War which began in 2013), Afghanistan (2.6 million refugees, 95% of whom are hosted in Iran and Pakistan) and Syria (6.3 million have fled the conflict. Around 3.5 million are hosted in Turkey).

At least 700 thousand Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar since 2017

gride of people pictures
©UNHCR https://www.un.org/en/observances/refugee-day

2020 World Refugee Day Statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi:

We are marking this year’s World Refugee Day against a backdrop of a dramatic global crisis. Not only are record numbers of people forced to flee their homes, but the world is grappling with COVID-19, a disease that is still very much affecting us all. What started as a health crisis has expanded, and today many of the most vulnerable – refugees and the displaced amongst them – face a pandemic of poverty.

Yet, throughout this challenging time, we have also seen a connectedness that transcends borders. Ordinary people have stepped up to help. Host communities – especially those in low- and middle-income countries where nearly 90 percent of the world’s refugees live – have continued to demonstrate a remarkable welcome.

And refugees themselves are also contributing in significant ways, despite often living in extremely vulnerable conditions. They are, for example, volunteering as front line health workers in Colombia and the United Kingdom; making soap for distribution in Lebanon and Niger; sewing masks and protective gear in Iran; helping construct isolation centres in Bangladesh; and elsewhere around the world, they are contributing time to help the needy in their host communities.

As we battle COVID-19, I draw inspiration from the resilience refugees have shown in overcoming their own crisis of displacement and dispossession; their separation from home and family; and their determination to improve their own and others’ lives, despite these and other hardships.

On World Refugee Day, I salute and celebrate the fortitude of refugees and displaced people around the world. I also pay tribute to the communities that shelter them and that have demonstrated the universally shared values and principles of compassion and humanity. They have sometimes hosted and protected refugees for years or even generations, and continuing to uphold these values in a time of pandemic is a powerful message of hope and solidarity.

UNHCR is no stranger to challenges. For over 70 years we have been on the frontlines of countless emergencies. Yet this global pandemic is of an entirely new magnitude. Our priority has been and will be, to stay and deliver for the refugees, internally displaced and stateless people we are mandated to protect. But we can’t do it alone.

Mobilizing help and support to prepare and respond to the pandemic has been vital in the past months. And we have seen how countries and communities around the world have included refugees in their own national health responses. It is now equally critical to secure refugees’ and displaced persons’ inclusion in the much-needed socio-economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Compact on Refugees has laid a strong foundation for this response. We have already seen it in action as bilateral donors, international financial institutions, and the private sector have responded to this crisis with unprecedented levels to support refugees through host governments. Such support must continue and be redoubled so that they have the resources necessary to include refugees and displaced people and ensure that economic and social disparities do not lead to rifts within and between communities. More must also be invested in countries of origin to make the return of refugees a viable option.

On this World Refugee Day, I call for greater global solidarity and action to include and support refugees, internally displaced and stateless people as well as their hosts.

Whoever you are. No matter where you come from. Every one of us can make a difference.

Every action truly counts.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/2020-world-refugee-day-statement-un-high-commissioner-refugees-filippo-grandi
Refugees are rescued from a boat in Lesvos, Greece in 2012
https://www.actionaid.org.uk/blog/news/2019/06/13/world-refugee-day-everything-you-should-know?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIkZeIovOP6gIVF-DtCh3wYg7NEAAYASAAEgIvxvD_BwE

Every refugee represents a human tragedy. Each one has a story – of fear, of trauma, of desperation, of determination. This poem by Warsan Shire reminds us of that truth.

Home
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here 

Warsan Shire, “Home,” Seekershub.org, September 2, 2015
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