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World Refugee Day - 20 June

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On 20 June each year, people from all over the world join together to celebrate World Refugee Day.

The day is an opportunity to remember the plight of refugees and the challenges they continue to face in all regions of the world. This year's theme is 'Take 1 minute to support a family forced to flee'.

This week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees released a report stating that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons reached 45.2 million in 2012 - the highest levels since 1994.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had this message for the occasion:

The number of forcibly displaced people in the world continues to rise.  There are now more than 45 million refugees and internally displaced people – the highest level in nearly 20 years.  Last year alone, someone was forced to abandon their home every four seconds.

War remains the dominant cause, with the crisis in Syria a leading instance of major displacement.  More than half of all refugees listed in a new report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees come from just five war-affected countries:  Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.  Major new displacements are also occurring in Mali, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

Figures give only a glimpse of this enormous human tragedy.  Every day, conflict tears apart the lives of thousands of families.  They may be forced to leave loved ones behind or become separated in the chaos of war.  Children suffer the most.  Nearly half of all refugees are below age 18, and a growing number are fleeing on their own.

Forced displacement also has a significant economic, social and, at times, political impact on the communities that provide shelter.  There is a growing and deep imbalance in the burden of hosting refugees, with poor countries taking in the vast majority of the world’s uprooted people.  Developing countries host 81 per cent of the world’s refugees, compared to 70 per cent a decade ago.

Finding durable solutions for the displaced will require more solidarity and burden-sharing by the international community.  On World Refugee Day, I call on the international community to intensify efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, and to help achieve peace and security so that families can be reunited and refugees can return home.

In the UK

Here in the UK, World Refugee Day falls in Refugee Week, which celebrates the contribution refugees make to UK society and promotes a better understanding of their needs. UNA-UK has been calling on its members and supporters to get involved with the various nationwide activities taking place.

Earlier this year UNA-UK welcomed the UK government's introduction of a new statelessness determination procedure, which, in compliance with the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, seeks to properly identify stateless persons.

Click here to find out more about the work of the UK office of the UN Refugee Agency.