World Refugee Day 2021

Lara Kajs | 20 June 2021 |

On World Refugee Day 2021, we celebrate and honor refugees around the world. World Refugee Day was established by the United Nations on this day in 2001 as it commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This year’s theme is the basic human right to seek safety – something that impacts everyone, everywhere, all the time.

Today we recognize the plight of refugees in their hope of seeking safety and sanctuary. A refugee is someone who leaves their home country through no fault of their own, fleeing from war and conflict, persecution, and violence. In most cases, they flee on foot, with very few possessions, maybe a backpack filled with a few items. They travel across borders with the hope of being safe.

Making the decision to leave their homeland and everything and everyone they know, to seek protection for themselves and their family – in an unfamiliar land – is not easy. It is a hard choice, it is a choice of necessity, and in most cases, it is a matter of life and death. Refugees are brave, they are strong, and they are survivors.

World Refugee Day is an instrument to build an understanding of the circumstances that force people to flee, and it is a day for everyone to experience, understand, and celebrate the rich diversity in communities hosting refugees. The majority of refugees come from backgrounds where they have made strong contributions to society and can contribute immensely to their new country. It is important to recognize that. It is also important to know that most refugees hope for the day when they can return home, but that is not always possible so they must build a new life elsewhere. In their greatest time of need, they deserve dignity, hope, and all the support humanity can offer.

The unprovoked conflict in Ukraine displaced at least thirteen million people – at least five million fled across borders into neighboring countries. The Syrian crisis has left nearly seven million people in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, and some refugees have traveled further to other host countries. Conflict and crises in Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Venezuela, and Myanmar have also seen increasing numbers of refugees.

Never has there been a more critical time to support refugees and displaced persons. In just a year the number of displaced persons has increased to 80 million people who have been forcibly displaced in the world and every single one of them has the right to seek safety. To punish them, obstruct them from seeking sanctuary, ridicule them, criminalize them for escaping terror, conflict, and persecution; to force them to return to a place of human suffering is wrong.

Everyone on the planet has the right to seek safety. People fleeing conflict, violence, and persecution desire to be treated with dignity. They do not deserve to be mistreated, labeled or condemned as if they are doing something wrong by seeking sanctuary. They should not be banished… they should be welcomed.

Photo Credit: World Refugee Day, Malak, Darwin by Stephen Michael Barnett. Licensed under CC 2.0 license