Live Blog 2021: This World Refugee Day, we are stronger together

On World Refugee Day, UNHCR honours the courage of those who have been forced to flee war and persecution as well as the people around the world who have welcomed refugees into their communities.

Welcome to the World Refugee Day 2021 Live Blog! This year, we are highlighting events and stories from around the world that showcase refugees as well as the countries, organizations and communities that support and welcome them.

Each World Refugee Day, 20 June, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, joins with others around the world to honour the more than 80 million people who have been forced to flee war, conflicts and persecution and rebuild their lives far from home. We also celebrate the people who have opened their countries, communities and even their homes to those who seek safety and peace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained our health-care systems, forced children out of school and sometimes kept us from those we love. Refugees have stepped up despite the challenges they face – working on the front lines as nurses and doctors, inventing ways to keep people from spreading germs in close quarters, distributing information on how to stay healthy and safe and more.

Given the chance, refugees will continue to contribute to a stronger, safer and more vibrant world. Together #withrefugees we can achieve anything.


Last entry of the 2021 World Refugee Day Live Blog – New York/Burkina Faso

Despite the pandemic, war, violence and persecution continued this year. Last week, UNHCR reported that 82.4 million people have been forcibly displaced from home – having sought shelter across borders or within their own country.

We cannot accept this – because each of those numbers is a person, someone who wants only to live free of fear. So this World Refugee Day, we celebrate refugees and the communities that make them feel welcome. But we also have a message: We all must do more.


Finally, a special thank you.

This year, Afghan-Canadian artist and former refugee Hangama Amiri designed the World Refugee Day Twitter emoji. She has a special thank you message, but first we want to thank her: Thank you, Hangama, for capturing hope and home so beautifully.

United States. Afghan refugee design World Refugee Day logo

Hangama Amiri, an Afghan-Canadian artist and former refugee, is the designer of the 2021 World Refugee Day Twitter emoji.   © UNHCR/Ashley Le




The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in Colombia on World Refugee Day.

Colombia. The High Commissioner's visit to Panama, Colombia & Ecuador on the occasion of the VenSit Pledging Conference & World Refugee Day.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi meets with children at a local integration centre in the Colombian city of Barranquilla.  © UNHCR/Santiago Escobar-Jaramillo


Tokyo, Japan

This #worldrefugeeday, let's remember all of the LGBTIQ+ refugees around the world searching for a place to be who they are in peace. We love this exhibit and are so pleased to see it in Pride House, Japan. You can visit it online!


The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Poetry slam! Congolese slammer Feza Ketya expresses her feelings along with young Burundian and Rwandan refugees in Goma."This text has no beginning or end. I wrote it at random a bit like the mess in my head."

In DRC, celebrating refugees and the community that welcomes them in Goma.   © UNHCR


Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

More blue for World Refugee Day!


Oxford, UK

Looking for great reads for your kids? Check out Lantana Publishing's books on refugees to get started!



Watch here. Seventeen-year-old Bhutanese refugee Kul Bahadur plays guitar and performs a song expressing love for his home country during a festive virtual ceremony to mark #WorldRefugeeDay on 20 June 2021 in Damak, Province 1 in Nepal. The event was co-organized by @UNHCR Nepal and @LWF Nepal and with the participation of representatives from the refugee community, local and federal Government, NGOs and international community.

17-year-old Bhutanese refugee Kul Bahadur plays guitar and performs a song expressing love for his home country during a festive virtual ceremony to mark \X20WorldRefugeeDay on 20 June 2021 in Damak, Province 1 in Nepal.   © UNHCR/Santosh Kumar Chaudhary


Stockholm, Sweden

UNHCR Nordic and Baltic Countries co-organized a lively event with young refugees from the Täby reception center in Stockholm, Sweden. In a nod to the theme of refugee inclusion in sports, several friendly football matches were held between the refugees, locals and UNHCR colleagues and activities for all ages were available as children participated in UNHCR’s Youth #WithRefugees Art ContestDream Ball challenge.

World Refugee Day event in Täby, Sweden

UNHCR Nordic and Baltic Countries co-organized a World Refugee Day event with young refugees from the Täby reception center in Stockholm, Sweden.   © UNHCR


Clarkston, Georgia, USA

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Kat Graham went to Georgia, USA to meet refugees who are making their communities brighter!



On 19 June, to mark World Refugee Day, buildings and monuments in 40 Spanish cities lit up blue to honour the millions of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution & human rights violations. Thank you to all of the cities who participated and to those who shared the awesome photos! #NocheAzul #DíadelRefugiado



As part of their pledge to change the refugee narrative, IKEA has launched their new campaign in support of refugee inclusion. We encourage all IKEA co-workers and customers to support this important cause! Together #WithRefugees


On Instagram

The biggest social media account in the world has featured the first Syrian refugee woman pilot, our Goodwill Ambassador Maya Ghazal.


Tbilisi, Georgia

World Refugee Day face masks spotted!


Check this out on Instagram

Actress, influencer and now UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Tanya Burr celebrates World Refugee Day.


Washington, D.C., USA

In the U.S. capital, World Refugee Day celebrations kicked off with cultural activities hosted by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with musical performances by Mélat, the daughter of Ethiopian refugees and R&B artist, and Cesar Orozco & Kamarata Jazz, Venezuelan/Cuban inspired music, yoga and dance workshops and more with One Journey, a grassroots advocacy group.


Kyoto, Japan

Goodnight from Kyoto! Toji Temple is a Shingon Buddhist temple in Kyoto City, Japan, built 1200 years ago. It has been named a world heritage site. The Temple participated in UNHCR Japan's nationwide blue light-up initiative for World Refugee Day, shining blue in honour of those who have been forced to flee their homes.

Toji Temple in Kyoto City, Japan.  © UNHCR/Atsushi Shibuya


Maban County, South Sudan


Moscow, Russia

A refugee boy from Afghanistan, Ferdavs, was among the attendees of a comic workshop held at the Tverskaya 15 inclusive center in Moscow. The "Run can't stay" comic book is a joint project between UNHCR Russia and the Samokat publishing house. It features the stories of seven refugee children from Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan, CAR, Palestine, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in Russia and studying at local schools. The book, based on real-life stories and written by Alexei Oleynnikov with illustrations by students, contains information about the countries of origin and the reasons people had to flee.

On June 17, UNHCR Russia organized a workshop on drawing comics based on its book about refugees for teenagers "Run can't stay."  © UNHCR/Ruslan Altimirov


United Kingdom

In the UK, Refugee Week has been running since 14 June with a host of events across the country including arts festivals, exhibitions, film screenings and football tournaments. The theme in the UK this year is “We Cannot Walk Alone.” Check out this interview with Dr Waheed Arian, an ex-Afghan refugee now working on the frontline for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). We will also be joining refugee supporters in Devon next week to mark the long-standing tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need.

United Kingdom. Local volunteers help Syrian family integrate in rural Devon

Hani Arnout, 34, originally from Syria, accepts a cake from local resident Helen Stoneman at his home in Ottery St Mary, Devon, UK, in March 2019.  © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell


Davos, Switzerland

The World Economic Forum’s Radio Davos has released a podcast for World Refugee Day featuring a discussion between UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and Victor Ochen, who was internally displaced for 20 years in northern Uganda, on the impact of COVID-19 on people forced to flee.



Combining two elements of this year's motto "Together we heal, learn and shine", today saw the inauguration of a new nursing and healthcare lab for Jordanian and refugee students at the Luminus Technical University College in the capital Amman, supported by UNHCR. Syrian nursing student Aya said: "Education is important for everyone. It helps a person develop, but also develops our community."

Jordan. Opening of nursing and healthcare lab on World Refugee Day

Syrian refugee nursing students in the new Nursing and Healthcare Lab at Luminus Technical University College, Amman, Jordan.  © UNHCR/Lilly Carlisle


United Kingdom/Kenya

British writer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Neil Gaiman is marking the day by handing over his Instagram account to South Sudanese refugee and activist Nhial Deng. Check his feed throughout the day to hear more about Nhial's incredible journey.



With more than 6.7 million Syrian refugees around the world, people often overlook the fact that some 24,000 refugees from other countries currently live in Syria. Seven of them have shared their stories to mark World Refugee Day.


Geneva, Switzerland

In Geneva this morning, hundreds of people took part in a 5km run organised by the nonprofit Together Run to symbolize the journey of millions of refugees around the world who have fled their homes in search of safety. Among the runners was UNHCR's own Deputy High Commissioner Kelly T. Clements, who shared her thoughts on how sport can connect refugees to their communities and help them to shine.



Ivorian refugee Aurélie Kouassi loves football but struggles to find other girls who her share her passion at the Egyeikrom Camp in Ghana. For now, she plays with the boys but her goal is to play for a top football club, and go to university.



Home to the largest refugee population in Central Asia, Tajikistan marked WRD by organising an event in the city of Vahdat during which sports equipment was donated to schools attended by refugees and locals. Pupils showed their appreciation with a Taekwondo demonstration.

Tajikistan. The host and refugee community celebrate World Refugee Day.

Refugee and local pupils give a Taekwondo demonstration at a school in Vahdat city, Tajikistan.  © UNHCR/Didor Sadulloev


Rome, Italy

Italy's World Refugee Day activities this year included the Awareness Festival, which aims to promote the inclusion of refugees and migrants through participation in sport. Over 100 young people aged 16-26 came together for a day of football and celebration.

Italy. UNHCR participates in the Awareness festival, celebrating the power of sports to foster inclusion of refugees in local communities

Youngsters play football during the Awareness Festival as part of World Refugee Day celebrations in Italy.  © UNHCR/Valerio Muscella



Did you know that the Caribbean island of Aruba is home to the world's largest per capita population of internationally displaced people, mostly from Venezuela? At the end of last month ahead of World Refugee Day, dance groups made up of locals, refugees and migrants organised a flash mob on the white sands of Eagle Beach.

Aruba. Refugees, locals came together to promote inclusion during World Refugee Day

Locals and displaced people in Aruba marked World Refugee Day with a group dance on 31 May.  © UNHCR/Freeway



At the Rukla refugee reception centre in Lithuania, refugees from the centre and other parts of the country came togther with locals to enjoy activities including singing, dancing and... a foam party! The latter seemed to go down particularly well with younger participants.

World Refugee Day celebrated in Rukla reception centre in Lithuania.

A young refugee enjoys a foam party during World Refugee Day celebrations at a refugee reception centre in Rukla, Lithuania.  © UNHCR



Inclusion in sport is one of the themes of this year's WRD, so what better way to mark the occasion in Greece – location of the first ever marathon – than by organising a short distance marathon. On the Greek island of Leros, refugee children took part in the race alongside islanders including staff and pupils from local schools.

Greece. sport event held on Leros island to mark World Refugee Day 2021

Children and adults run during a short distance marathon during a World Refugee Day event held on the Greek island of Leros.  © UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis



Omar’s Film School in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, trains young Rohingya refugees on photography and videography so they can tell their own stories. UNHCR teamed up with the School to make this short film for World Refugee Day.



Olympic marathon runner and former refugee Yonas Kinde will be spending World Refugee Day running a special training programme while he thinks about refugees around the world, particularly children. “This is the time to think about those people,” he said. “It’s a very special day.”


London, UK

In an interview with Reuters for World Refugee Day, actor and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett said the uncertainty faced by many of us during COVID-19 has been the reality for most refugees “year in, year out”, and urged people to reflect on how to create a safer, more humane and inclusive world.



This year, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is in Colombia for World Refugee Day. As well as meeting Venezuelan refugees and migrants living in the country, he also delivered a message expressing solidarity and admiration for refugees around the world.



The moto of this year’s World Refugee Day is “Together we heal, learn and shine.” In Nigeria’s Adagom 1 Settlement, young Bridget from Cameroon showed Nigerian actor and High-Profile Supporter Judith Audu how to learn together by inviting her to spend the day at her primary school.


Kampala, Uganda 

Victor spent most of his life in war-zones. For World Refugee Day, he sat down with Refugees Chief @FilippoGrandi for an intimate conversation on trauma passed down through generations, the need for peace and what it means when you don't know if you can be resilient anymore.  


Bangkok, Thailand 

This might be the first-ever World Refugee Day boat! 


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 

Celebrations have begun in Addis Ababa, where UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Betty G and young refugees gathered to discuss. – and sing about– the life changing power of education. 


Tokyo, Japan

For the second year in a row, UNIQLO is running its global World Refugee Day campaign online and in retail stores worldwide. The week long campaign starts today and includes social media posts, posters and a WRD website, as well as a donation of two million AIRism masks to UNHCR to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to people forced to flee.


Melbourne, Australia

Mimi Kayeye – a participant in UNHCR’s Journalist Mentorship Programme for Refugees – has written a powerful account for Harper’s Bazar UK of her experience twice fleeing her home in Burundi before settling in Australia as a refugee.


New York, USA

In the lead up to WRD, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi joined US Permanent Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and former refugees Bahati Ernestine Hategekimana, Daniela María Pérez Obando and Abdallah Al-Obaidi for a virtual panel on the importance of acceptance and inclusion. 



Working with Vodafone Foundation and refugee communities, UNHCR turns classrooms into multimedia hubs. See how it works! 



What does home mean to you? Show us during our TikTokForGood challenge! 



This World Refugee Day, UNHCR's theme is "together we heal, learn and shine," and we call for the inclusion of refugees in healthcare, education and sport. These kids drew what this means to them! 


Geneva, Switzerland

This year, UNHCR and Twitter partnered with Afghan-Canadian artist, Hangama Amiri, to create the 2021 World Refugee Day emoji. You can read a Q/A with the artist here



Alphonso Davies, superstar footballer and a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, talks about the power of sport to change lives in this special World Refugee Day interview with Canadian magazine, Global Heroes.