Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador
Teenager who competed in Rio Olympics joins at a time of unprecedented crisis with 65 million people displaced worldwide.
GENEVA – Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini, a Syrian who fled across the Mediterranean, was today appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and pledged to work harder to inspire refugees around the world.
Mardini, 19, who competed in last summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, said she was honoured to work with UNHCR and would dedicate her voice to speak up for people who have been forced to flee their homes.
“I could not be more proud to be part of the UNHCR family and #TeamRefugees,” Mardini told journalists at the Palais des Nations, the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations. “I want to encourage all refugees to continue with education and not stop at one point in their lives.”
Mardini, who has been granted asylum in Germany, is the youngest Goodwill Ambassador working with UNHCR. The teenager joins the likes of famed actress Cate Blanchett, celebrated author Khaled Hosseini and TV star Kristin Davis.
She takes on her new role at a time when over 65 million people globally have been driven from their homes by war and persecution.
“Yusra is a deeply inspiring young woman."
Her commitment to advocate for displaced people across the world was praised by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who met the athlete for the first time in Brazil during the 2016 Olympic Games.
“Yusra is a deeply inspiring young woman,” said Grandi. “Through her powerful personal story, Yusra represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than ten million young refugees around the globe.”
During her dangerous journey to Europe, Yusra risked her life when she jumped into the Aegean Sea from a sinking boat with her 21-year-old sister Sara and helped push it and some 18 desperate passengers to safety.
Her dedication to sport and her work for refugees has also been praised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who worked in partnership with UNHCR to form the Refugee Olympic Team.
"The Olympic games bring all people together."
“It is my hope that through her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Yusra will continue to inspire refugees, reminding us that anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
While Mardini will work with young refugees and continue to be a powerful voice for forcibly displaced people across the world, she remains committed to swimming and says her goal is to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
“We cannot forget the Olympic games bring all people together," she said. “I'm really hoping that in the next Olympics there will be a refugee team.”