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UNHCR’s Grandi: Let’s make refugee inclusion the norm

Speeches and statements

UNHCR’s Grandi: Let’s make refugee inclusion the norm

19 June 2024
Filippo Grandi shakes hands with Dalia, both smiling.

At the Joda border crossing in South Sudan, UNHCR’s Grandi meets South Sudanese returnee Dalia, 22, who was about to start university in Khartoum before her family fled the conflict.

Today, on World Refugee Day, we honour the millions of people around the globe who are forced to flee violence and persecution. We celebrate their remarkable fortitude and capacity for renewal, despite the daunting challenges they face.

The picture is rarely as desperate as where I am now, in Jamjang, South Sudan. In recent months nearly 700,000 people have crossed from neighbouring Sudan, fleeing a devastating war that has taken their homes, their loved ones - everything. Some fled this country long ago to escape South Sudan’s civil war; now they are being forced back to a place still struggling to recover from years of fighting and famine. Others are Sudanese – teachers, doctors, shopkeepers and farmers – who must now navigate life as refugees.

Refugees arriving at borders is not just an issue for rich countries. Three quarters of the world’s refugees live in countries with low or modest incomes – it is false, and irresponsible, to claim that most are trying to get to Europe or the US.

Just look at the tragedy unfolding in Sudan: It is neighbouring South Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and Egypt that provide sanctuary to Sudanese people fleeing the horror.

These countries show that solidarity is possible even under the most trying circumstances. I commend them for it. But they cannot do it alone. At a time of division and upheaval, refugees – and those hosting them – need us all to pull together.

We live in a world where conflicts are left to fester. The political will to resolve them seems utterly absent. And even as these crises multiply, the right to seek asylum is under threat. To make matters worse, the global effects of climate change take an ever more devastating toll – including here, where severe flooding is expected to submerge villages and farmlands, adding to South Sudan’s woes.

Yet there are many reasons for hope. Today is also a day to celebrate progress made. A bold new development plan in Kenya will transform legacy refugee camps into settlements where refugees will have greater opportunities to advance, and full access to a range of services. In Colombia, UNHCR supports a government system to include almost 2.3 million Venezuelans in the labour market. In Ukraine, we helped to build a platform that supports people who are cautiously returning to repair or rebuild their homes.

This longer-term approach is key – sustainable action in education, energy, food security, employment, housing and more, working with states, development partners and others. Let’s not leave refugees in limbo; instead, let’s give them the chance to use their skills and talents and contribute to the communities that have welcomed them.

There must also be safe and legal ways for refugees to settle elsewhere, whether through work visas, scholarships or resettlement in another country. Without these options, more people will turn to smugglers in a desperate search for hope and opportunity.

All this requires investment. International funding to help those fleeing war in Sudan, and to enable local authorities and host communities to expand infrastructure, settlements and services, has fallen short. And worldwide, many other crises are similarly neglected.

On World Refugee Day and every day, we can all do more to show solidarity with refugees and work towards a world where they are welcomed, or can return home in peace. With courage, commitment and compassion, solutions are within our grasp.