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World Refugee Day: A celebration of resilience and hope

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World Refugee Day: A celebration of resilience and hope

Writing on World Refugee Day, Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR's Asia Director, emphasizes the urgent need for solutions for forcibly displaced people around the world.
20 June 2022
Indrika Ratwatte speaking with a refugee returnee family at UNHCR's encashment centre in Kabul, Afghanistan, in June 2022.

World Refugee Day is intended to be a celebration of the human spirit and of the fortitude of the millions of people who, despite being displaced and dispossessed, relentlessly strive to improve their lives and those of their families and communities.

We recently reached the heart-breaking and grim milestone of 100 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. The war in Ukraine this year, as well as new or continuing emergencies in places such as Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have all contributed to this staggering figure.

Asia is the setting for several of the world’s largest displacement crises, with the ongoing emergencies in Afghanistan and Myanmar affecting millions of people. The continent also has a proud tradition of providing safety to millions. In 2021, three of the world’s top ten refugee hosting countries were Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran.

I was in Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, meeting resilient Afghans affected by four decades of conflict and the generous communities that are hosting and sharing resources with refugees. The situation in Afghanistan underscores the need for continued global attention. With the looming humanitarian crisis, it is more important than ever to sustain international support and give hope to the 40 million Afghans who live in the country – including those displaced by conflict.

I spoke with an Afghan family in Kabul who had just returned home from Pakistan – among the very few who have decided to do so. While the numbers of returnees are still small, this signifies that the hope of returning home never fades and requires guarantees of rights, inclusion, support and investment to make return sustainable.   

In Bangladesh in May, I met Rohingya refugees who are also longing to go back home in safety and dignity. Five years after the mass influx into Bangladesh, they are in dire need of long-term solutions.

The world struggles to find solutions for displaced people: more are forced to flee than are able to return home, resettle to a third country, or integrate fully into the country where they have sought safety. In other words, forced displacement is outpacing solutions for those on the run.

That is why today, on World Refugee Day, we call for the redoubling of efforts to find solutions for millions of the displaced.

Refugees and displaced communities are not giving up on their hopes to return home.

Leaders need to demonstrate stronger political willingness to work together to make peace and resolve the plight of those who have been displaced with lasting and humane solutions.

As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi said today, the world has a choice: either come together to reverse the trend of persecution, violence, and war, or accept that the legacy of the 21st century is one of continued forced displacement. We all know which is the right – and smart – thing to do.