World Day of Refugees and Migrants

World Day of Refugees and Migrants

The UN General Assembly, with a resolution that was unanimously adopted, decided to declare a world day for refugees in order to re-affirm the values on which International agreements for the protection of refugees are based. The day, universally recognised since 2001, supports the work done by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the NGOs and other organisations involved in this sector, as well as raising awareness and sensitising public opinion regarding the suffering of refugees. It also supports the efforts of the organisations involved.

June 20 was chosen as World Day for Refugees, because it coincides with the date on which the African Day for Refugees is celebrated. The theme of this memorable day is respect for the refugees themselves, for the rights contemplated in the 1951 convention on “the status of the refugee”. The year 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the Convention, which contains the fundamental principles for the protection of refugees and the rights of peoples forced into a mass exodus.

We report some statements from the message of Kofi Annan, given on the occasion of the first World Day of the Refugee, but still very relevant. “For the first time, today, we celebrate the World Day of the Refugee, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. This day offers us an opportunity to recognise the extraordinary courage and the contribution of refugees, those of today as well as those of the past, who continue to persevere despite of having lost everything except hope.

Refugees are the great survivors of our times. Many of them have overcome great adversity during their years of exile to, finally, be able to return home, while others have to build a new life in a foreign land. They all merit our encouragement, support and respect.

Unfortunately, in a time of unprecedented prosperity for some, refugees are aware that the threshold of welcome is narrowing. Countries that once opened their ports to refugees now close them, while the poorer countries, who cannot really support it, take on an ever greater burden. We have a moral duty to assist refugees. Besides, experience shows that, from an economic and cultural perspective, they create more wealth than they consume. Many refugees are people of considerable creativity, who bring a good reputation with them of gain it in their adopted countries. Almost all have precious skills and desire to maintain themselves and their families with hard work. The World Day offers an opportunity to re-affirm the basic principles of the Convention, including the prohibition of expelling refugees or sending them back to countries where their lives or freedom would be under threat because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or belonging to a particular social group. Living up to this commitment is saving innumerable human lives.

The Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees, situated in Geneva , is involved with more than 20 million refugees and other needy persons throughout the world. Today is their day, but it is also our opportunity to help them to build a better future”.

The heart of the message sent out on the occasion of the World Day for Refugees and Migrants 2013, recalls how we all come from somewhere else; we are all travellers, foreigners, guests on this earth, searching for our goal. Our history and the cultural identities of our planet were built and transformed through migrations.

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