Portrait of refugee athlete Yiech Pur Biel
© UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

About Yiech

Yiech Pur Biel is a South Sudanese track and field refugee athlete living in Kenya. He was forced to flee war in South Sudan in 2005 at the age of 10, leaving his parents and arriving alone to Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. He developed a talent for football, overcoming the challenges of training in the sweltering heat with no facilities, and was recognised for having athletic ability during trials to identify refugee athletes.

In 2016 Pur made history by competing for the first Refugee Olympic Team in the 800m event at the Rio Summer Olympics in Brazil. Pur explained that competing could help him to be an ambassador for refugees everywhere: “I can show to my fellow refugees that they have a chance and a hope in life. Through education but also in running, you can change the world.”

In September 2016 he helped to amplify the voices of refugees by urging 193 nations at the UN General Assembly to support UNHCR’s #WithRefugees petition, via an historic hand-in ceremony in New York.

Since Rio, Pur has competed in various sporting competitions across Kenya. Pur continues to represent refugees on the global athletics stage, most recently participating in the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (AIMAG) in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Pur has also travelled to Paris with UNHCR, visiting the restaurant of Mohammed el-Khaldy - a Syrian chef who has been given asylum in France – and also learning about a program set up to send presents to refugee children. Pur has become a committed supporter of UNHCR’s work.

In 2017 Pur was appointed as a member of the Olympic Refugee Foundation. Funded by the International Olympic Committee, the purpose of the foundation is to create safe and accessible sports facilities in areas where there are refugees and displaced communities.