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Prominent Refugees | Refugees who have made a difference

Refugees or former refugees who have achieved special status within a community due to their achievements, or because they have overcome hardship to build a new life.

This gallery features a selection of refugees who have made a difference and left a mark in the world. The list includes people, dead and living, in all walks of life. Some, like writer Milan Kundera, composer Bela Bartok, physicist Albert Einstein and actress-singer Marlene Dietrich are world famous, others have shared their gifts locally. The UN refugee agency salutes all of them for showing the potential of refugees around the world.

Gil, Gilberto

Musician Gilberto’s exile in Europe brought Brazilian music to a wider audience that was beginning to discover what later became known as World Music.

Hugo, Victor

Victor Hugo, one of the greatest writers France has ever known, came to symbolise the struggle of the individual for justice and freedom.

Kokoschka, Oscar

The well-known Austrian painter, Oscar Kokoschka, was a fierce critic of Nazi anti-Semitism and of the victimisation of intellectuals and artists.

Lemkin, Raphael

Raphael Lemkin was the man behind the first UN human rights treaty, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Makeba, Miriam

Legendary singer Miriam Makeba became an icon of African culture, associated with the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 1960s.

Mbeki, Thabo

Thabo Mbeki was working for the African National Congress before presiding over South Africa’s transition to majority rule and becoming the President of South Africa.

Mercouri, Melina

“Never on Sunday” star Melina Mercouri rose from being an actress with a worldwide following to being Greece’s most famous Minister of Culture.

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