High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi’s message on World Refugee Day
On World Refugee Day, we honour the courage and hopes of the millions of people forced to flee war, violence, and persecution. This year I’m marking the occasion in Kenya, meeting refugees brimming with strength and ambition despite escaping conflict, drought, and other horrors.
Today in Kakuma refugee camp, I met Abdulaziz Lugazo, who chairs a farmers’ cooperative that cultivates drought-resistant crops such as spinach, okra, and collard greens. Abdulaziz grew up on his family’s farm in Somalia, and when he was forced to flee in 1990, he never thought he’d be able to farm again. Now, he is able to work alongside other refugee and Kenyan farmers on land provided by the government, earning enough to pay for his children’s school books and uniforms.
Abdulaziz was eager to use his skills to help his fellow refugees, as well as to work within the Kenyan community hosting him. Thanks to Kenya’s increasingly inclusive policies in Kakuma, he was given the chance to contribute and succeed.
Kenya and Kenyans have generously hosted refugees for over 30 years. Over my countless visits to the country, I have seen the impact of the many positive and concrete steps to improve conditions for refugees and host communities.
I am using this particular visit to highlight to the rest of the world that we can – and must – do more to offer such hope, opportunities, and solutions to refugees, wherever they are and whatever the context. Kenya shows that it is possible.
Including refugees in the communities where they have found safety is the most effective way to help them restart their lives and contribute to the countries hosting them.
In real terms, this means ensuring that refugees can apply for jobs, enroll in schools, and access services like housing and health care. It also means fostering a sense of belonging and welcome that gives hope to refugees uprooted from their homes.
The government here is poised to roll out innovative and inclusive policies that will allow many of the half a million refugees and asylum-seekers to work and live side by side with Kenyans. This will encourage self-reliance, grow the economy, and reduce dependence on humanitarian aid.
At UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, we know that inclusion is the best way to support refugees in exile, to prepare them so they can help rebuild their countries when conditions allow them to return, or to thrive if they are resettled to another country.
But host countries cannot do it on their own. The rest of the international community must step up and provide the financial resources to enable such progressive policies. We have seen enormous progress in this area over the past years, with outstanding donor generosity, innovative approaches to financing, and huge investments by the World Bank, regional development banks, and other international financial institutions. But clearly, more must be done.
It is time for us all to commit to including refugees in our communities at all levels – in our schools, workplaces, health-care systems, and beyond, as the Kenyan government is doing, so that refugees can regain hope away from home.
We must also acknowledge the challenges facing host countries in a world short on peace. More often than not, it is border communities that continue to receive and host people fleeing the violence. Countries neighbouring Sudan are yet another example of this solidarity. Many refugee-hosting countries like them have the will to welcome and include refugees but need far more investment and support to do so.
Unfortunately, in today’s divided world, long-term solutions for people forced to flee remain pitifully scarce, leaving many of the world’s 35 million refugees in limbo.
That is why, on World Refugee Day, I conclude by calling leaders to live up to their responsibility to broker peace so that violence stops, and refugees can return home safely and voluntarily.
I call on governments to increase resettlement opportunities for refugees desperately in need.
And I call on States to embrace policies that harness the enormous potential refugees have to contribute to the social, economic and political life of the countries hosting them. We know too well the cost of inaction: a world with the highest forced displacement in recorded history. We cannot let this continue.