In the News / June 2019

What You Need to Know About World Refugee Day

On June 20th, people from all over the world will celebrate World Refugee Day. According to the United Nations, World Refugee Day is a day to commemorate “the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.”

In 2001, the UN General Assembly, marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), adopted the following resolution:

  1. 1. Commends the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for its leadership and coordination of international action for refugees, and acknowledges the tireless efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner to provide international protection and assistance to refugees and other persons of concern and to promote durable solutions for their problems during the past fifty years;
  2. Pays tribute to the dedication of United Nations humanitarian workers and associated personnel, the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner in the field, including local staff, who risk their lives in the performance of their duties;
  3. 3. Reaffirms its support for the activities of the Office of the High Commissioner, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, on behalf of returnees, stateless persons and internally displaced persons;
  4. Notes the crucial role of partnerships with Governments and international, regional and non-governmental organizations, as well as of the participation of refugees in decisions that affect their lives;
  5. Recognizes that, by virtue of its activities on behalf of refugees and other persons of concern, the Office of the High Commissioner also contributes to promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations, in particular those related to peace, human rights and development;
  6. Notes that 2001 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees,1 which sets out the fundamental concepts for international refugee protection;
  7. Also notes that the Organization of African Unity has agreed that an international refugee day may coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June; 1 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, No. 2545. A/RES/55/76 2;
  8. Decides that, as from 2001, 20 June will be celebrated as World Refugee Day.

This year’s theme for World Refugee Day is the Global Compact on Refugees. It calls for investment in communities that host refugees to help ease the pressure on the host and to help refugees become self-reliant.

In 2016 UNHCR proposed a new global compact on refugees, building on existing international law and standards, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and human rights treaties, and better defining international cooperation to share responsibilities.

Its four key objectives are to:

  • Ease the pressures on host countries;
  • Enhance refugee self-reliance;
  • Expand access to third-country solutions; and
  • Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

For decades, USCRI’s work with refugee communities in the U.S. has reflected the values of the Global Compact—self-sufficiency, community support and the inherent right of an individual’s dignity. USCRI’s mission is to protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and support their transition to a dignified life.

Khaled Hosseini, author of New York Times bestseller The Kite Runner said, “Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, with the same hopes and ambitions as us—except that a twist of fate has bound their lives to a global refugee crisis on an unprecedented scale.

World Refugee Day has a simple yet powerful message: show your solidarity with those who have been forcibly displaced from their home countries.

On World Refugee Day, we urge people to look around—at your family, your neighbors and your community—and ask those who came as refugees why they made the decision to leave their home country. Listen to the stories they tell and try to understand the courage, determination and resilience it takes to uproot yourself and make your home elsewhere.

Author Richard Flanagan wrote in his book Notes on an Exodus, “Refugees are not like you and me. They are you and me. That terrible river of the wretched and damned flowing through Europe is my family. And there is no time in the future in which they might be helped. The only time we have is now.”

Everyone. Everywhere. Equal value. We are the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.

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