About Yusra

Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini was appointed the youngest ever UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in April 2017.  She advocates for refugees globally through sharing her own inspiring story and has become a powerful voice for the forcibly displaced across the world and an example of their resilience and determination to rebuild lives and positively contribute to host communities.

Yusra fled the war in Syria with her sister, travelling through Lebanon and Turkey before trying to reach Greece by boat. As competitive swimmers in Syria, when the motor failed, Yusra, her sister and two others jumped into the sea and swam for three hours in open water to stop their dinghy from capsizing, saving the lives of 20 people. Eventually they reached the Greek island of Lesvos.  Yusra then made her way across Europe to Germany where she re-started her swimming training in Berlin.

She was selected to compete at Rio 2016 as part of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team.  She was catapulted on to the world’s stage and subsequently went on to address world leaders at the UN General Assembly, meet the Pope and be honoured with several awards.  Yusra has written a book about her story which is also being turned into a film, scheduled for release in 2019.

Using her new platform, together with UNHCR, Yusra is determined to continue to use her own experience of flight to help focus the attention of the world on refugee issues.

Additional media materials on Yusra are available here.


Previous support and field visits

In April 2018 Yusra travelled with UNHCR to meet refugees in Sicily who had undertaken similar journeys to her own to escape conflict and reach safety. Yusra reflected on her trip in a takeover of the official UNHCR Instagram account.

In August 2017 Yusra travelled with UNHCR to Japan to undertake a series of high level meetings with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Governor of Tokyo, the President and staff at the Tokyo Olympic Games Organising Committee amongst others. She also gave an inspirational speech at a school and undertook  several media interviews and a Facebook Live with fellow UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Miyavi

Yusra has spoken on behalf of UNHCR at Google Zeitgeist and the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos where she also shared her story on the WEF blog.