The Ceremony

The ceremony recognised the efforts of the volunteers who helped thousands of refugees arriving on Greek shores during the 2015 refugee and migrant crisis – saving lives during treacherous sea crossings and providing a safe haven for the most vulnerable after they reached land.

The award recognizes Latsoudi and the HRT’s work and that of all volunteers in Greece and Europe in 2015, when Europe faced its biggest refugee crisis in decades, as over one million people arrived during the year. Over 850,000 people reached Greece by sea, with more than 500,000 of these arriving on the island of Lesvos alone.

“This award is a recognition of a conscious decision not to deny to vulnerable human beings that arrived in Lesvos ... their dignity.”

Efi Latsoudi, 2016 Nansen Refugee Award winner

During an emotional speech at the ceremony, Lyse Doucet, BBC’s Chief International Correspondent drew tears from the audience: “Home. Is there any sweeter word in the dictionary of emotion? … Tonight we celebrate the biggest of hearts – hearts which are heroic.”

During the ceremony, Senegalese singer Baaba Maal performed two songs whilst 2015 World Poetry Slam Champion Emi Mahmoud performed her moving poem “Bird watching on Lesvos Island”. A dance troupe, The Grey People, who earlier performed at the Eurovision Song Contest, interpreted the refugee cause through dance.

Latsoudi and the HRT were joined on the night by one other previous winner of the award, Japanese optometrist, Akio Kanai, who has given sight to thousands of internally displaced people.


2016 Ceremony performers and artists

Neshan Der Haroutiounian

Neshan has earned himself Pan-Arab recognition through his innovative work with several TV networks: In 2012, Google ranked Neshan as the "top trending celebrity" in Egypt following his Ramadan show on Al Hayat TV, and the MTV. Neshan became a UNHCR supporter in 2014 and has visited refugees in his native Lebanon and also in Iraq. 

Baaba Maal

An icon of West African music, cultural warrior, Senegalese singer Baaba Maal has achieved global recognition and acclaim. He has performed for heads of state and been nominated for a Grammy award. He is also internationally renowned for his commitment to development in Africa, and has endeavoured to draw attention to issues including; women's rights, AIDS, climate change, the importance of aid and the African food crisis.

Emtithal (Emi) Mahmoud

Born in Darfur, Sudan and raised in Philadelphia, Emtithal (Emi) Mahmoud is the reigning World Poetry Slam Champion of 2015 and the Women of the World co-Champion of 2016. She is the youngest and first person to hold both titles concurrently. Emi travelled to Lesvos in June 2016 to record a creative social media project with UNHCR to support the Nansen Refugee Award. Watch her performance

Lyse Doucet

Lyse Doucet is the BBC's Chief International Correspondent who is regularly deployed to cover major world stories, interviews world leaders, and reports across the BBC's domestic and global outlets. Lyse spent 15 years as a BBC foreign correspondent with postings in Jerusalem, Amman, Islamabad, Tehran, Kabul and Abidjan. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Honours list in 2014 for her services to broadcasting and the Columbia Journalism Award for lifetime achievement in 2016.

The Grey People

The "Grey People" are a collaboration of professional dancers based in Stockholm, Sweden which recently attracted international attention with their performance during the Eurovision Song Contest. "We want to get people to stop and think," said show producer Sven Stojanovic. The performance, named Grey People, tells the story of people fleeing across land and sea, hoping to reach a safer place.