On June 20 countries around the world observe World Refugee Day, a United Nations holiday that aims to raise awareness to the situation of refugees and the dangers they face in their lives. It is a day to celebrate the courage of the millions of women, children and men around the world who had to leave their homes to escape violence and persecution.
Before World Refugee Day, many countries were already celebrating Africa Refugee Day on June 20. In December of 2000, the United Nations General Assembly noted that the following year, 2001, would mark the 50th anniversary of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951. A Resolution was passed declaring that, from 2000, World Refugee Day was to be celebrated on June 20, and that the Organization of African Unity should agree to have this day coincide with Africa Refugee Day.
The UN High Commissioner deemed this observance as a necessary one, to bring awareness to the struggles of the over 14 million and growing refugees worldwide.
How it is Commemorated
Events on this day are arranged by organizations like the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Rescue Committee and Amnesty International. Activities usually include visits to asylum centers to show support, protests against the use of prisons to house migrants and asylum seekers and organizing petitions to governments asking for better treatment of refugees.
These events take place in more than 100 countries, and all aim to draw attention to the pleas of help from asylum seekers around the world.
Like most United Nations observances, World Refugee Day has a different theme every year. Themes have included "Respect" as the first theme in 2001, "Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World" was the theme for 2014, and in 2016 the theme was "We Stand Together With Refugees".
Some Facts for World Refugee Day
An average of 42,500 people flee their homes seeking asylum in other countries every day.
The UNCHR states that there are currently 65.3 million asylum seekers in the world, more than 21 million of which are refugees. Out of these, 51% are under 18.
86% of these refugees are given asylum by developing countries. The world's largest refugee camp is in Dadaab, Kenya.
The civil war in Syria has forced more than 11 million people to flee their country, and is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.