Live Blog: World Refugee Day gets under way amid record displacement

From Australasia to the Americas, UNHCR is leading celebrations of the lives of men, women and children finding new hope after escaping danger.

Child refugees and asylum-seekers perform at a pop-up philharmonic concert in central Stockholm on June 12, 2017.
© UNHCR/Caroline Bach

GENEVA – Chefs, muralists, cyclists and even a pop-up orchestra led millions of people around the world in celebratory events to mark World Refugee Day, at a time when the number of men, women and children uprooted by wars and persecution has broken records.

The event, which falls each year on June 20, salutes the courage and endurance of those who have been forced to flee their homes. Many are also showing they stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s petition. Check back here throughout the day for updates.

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Washington D.C., USA

Singer Thao Nguyen gives a free concert at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The lead singer with Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, she is the U.S.-born child of resettled Vietnamese refugees.


Mangaize Camp, Niger

Malian refugees sing and dance on World Refugee Day at Mangaize refugee camp, Niger.  Since 2012, more 60,000 people have fled fighting in northern Mali and are living in camps in Niger. 


Cairo, Egypt

A ‘Refugees Got Talent’ contest has amplified World Refugee Day celebrations in Egypt, giving young and old the chance to express themselves through art and music. UNHCR provides vital assistance to more than 200,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Egypt


London, United Kingdom

Today @ghazalmia is taking over UNHCR’s Instagram feed. Maya is a refugee from Damascus, Syria who has become a role model and a spokesperson for young refugees since seeking shelter in the UK in September 2015.


Juba, South Sudan

A group of refugee women from Ethiopia's Gambella region have showcased their colourful beaded handicrafts.


Madrid, Spain

Real Madrid footballer Cristiano Ronaldo Tweeted a World Refugee Day message on behalf of Save the Children.


Geneva, Switzerland

The Malian music group Ensemble Balaba performed at the at the UNHCR headquarters after a presentation about World Refugee Day by Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements.


Minsk, Belarus

To promote friendship, tolerance and inclusion towards refugees, UNHCR Belarus asked children to draw on the theme We Are Different, We Are Together. They received 1,200 submission from across the country, the best of which were shown in an exhibition in Minsk on World Refugee Day.


Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

Refugee rapper Esatis le Bon performs  Stop a la guerre (“Stop the war”), calling for peace in his native Central African Republic.


Vatican City

Addressing the faithful from a window in the Vatican, Pope Francis said: “Today more than ever we must stand with refugees.” He added:  “We should also remember in our prayers how many of them have lost their lives in the sea or in exhausting land journeys.” The pontiff continued: “Their stories of pain and hope can become opportunities for fraternal encounter and true mutual knowledge.” Meeting refugees in person dispelled any fears and “distorted ideologies” about them, he said.



New York, USA

On World Refugee Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the international community to provide support and solidarity.


Saltillo, Mexico

In an expression of solidarity with refugees, urban artists in northern Mexico painted a mural spelling out the word "bienvenidos" - which means “welcome” in Spanish. In recent years Mexico has become a place of refuge for thousands of families fleeing street gang violence in the north of Central America. The artists, known as "Tripulaczion," painted the work on one of the most transited avenues in the city of Saltillo.

Mexico. Mural painted in Saltillo to mark 2017 World Refugee Day

Mexican urban artists "Tripulaczion" paint a mural in Saltillo, Mexico.   © UNHCR


Nguenyyiel Camp, Ethiopia

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, is spending World Refugee Day in Nguenyyiel Camp, Gambella, on Ethiopia’s western borders with South Sudan.

"I am here in Ethiopia on World Refugee Day to tell the world that it is possible to receive many refugees, to treat them well, to remain stable, and to look to the future,"  Grandi said.

The region hosts more than 300,000 refugees. Hundreds more continue to arrive each day, fleeing violence and hunger in South Sudan.

Grandi visited a school, the market place in the camp and chatted with refugees, attending a ceremony with them, together with diplomats and humanitarian workers.

“Stay hopeful stay strong because we stand with refugees,” he said. “It is your day - World Refugee Day!”

High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi chats to refugees in a classroom in Nguenyyiel Camp, Ethiopia.

High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi chats to refugees in a classroom in Nguenyyiel Camp, Ethiopia.  © UNHCR/Petterik Wiggers


Beirut, Lebanon

With a few dance moves and a beaming smile, a young Syrian refugee celebrates at Ramadan Village in Beirut. Six years of conflict have driven 5.1 million Syrians to seek refuge abroad, more than 1 million of them in Lebanon.

Lebanon. World Refugee Day at Ramadan Village

A young Syrian dances during World Refugee Day celebrations at Ramadan Village in Beirut.   © UNHCR/Diego Ibarra Sánchez


Nguenyyiel Camp, Ethiopia

Beating drums, refugees who fled the conflict in South Sudan celebrate World Refugee Day with a traditional dance. 


Rabat, Morocco

In a sporting celebration of World Refugee Day, football teams made up of Moroccan and refugee players competed in a tournament in Rabat. Over the past three weeks, eight teams from across Morocco have taken part in the tournament. The final is scheduled for Friday.

Morocco. World Refugee Day. Semi-Finals of the Football Tournament in Rabat

Two mixed teams made up of Moroccan and refugee players compete in the semi-finals of a football tournament in Rabat, June 19 2017.  © UNHCR/Oussama Rhaleb


London, United Kingdom

Say it with flowers! Social enterprise Bread and Roses launches a London-wide flower delivery service on World Refugee Day, with all bouquets made by refugees and asylum seekers.


Sydney, Australia

Supporters of UNHCR Australia got together for a World Refugee Day breakfast at hotel in downtown Sydney. About 400 people were expected at the white tablecloth event to show solidarity with refugees.



Seoul, South Korea

A video featuring UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Jung Woo-sung on a mission in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq plays on a large screen outside Seoul City Hall. The video featuring the model, actor and director will run there through June 30.

South Korea. UNHCR's PSA for 2017 World Refugee Day

In Korea, UNHCR's public service announcement for World Refugee Day 2017 featuring Goodwill Ambassador Jung Woo-sung and UNHCR's work in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, is showing on the large screen outside the Seoul City Hall.  © UNHCR/Kim Jae Yoon


Lalitpur, Nepal

About 500 cyclists put on helmets and pedalled through the streets of Lalitpur, Nepal, on Saturday in solidarity with refugees. The Himalayan kingdom has itself suffered massive displacement, after more than half a million people lost their homes in an eqrthquake in April 2015.

Nepal. 2017 Ride for Refugees

Some 500 participants gathered for the 'Ride for Refugees' event in Lalitpur, Nepal on Saturday, June 17, 2017.  © UNHCR/Deepesh Das Shrestha


Duhok, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, Iraq

In a dazzling display of support for World Refugee Day in Iraq, artists, forcibly displaced youngsters and their host communities got together to paint murals in celebration of a shared humanity. They included a bear and its cub emerging from a waterfall in Sulaymaniyah, a shimmering peacock in Duhok and a flower-daubed deer in Erbil.


Chad, southern region

Celebrations to mark World Refugee Day got off to a brisk start in Chad, with a game of wheelchair basketball. Chad hosted more than 391,000 refugees at the end of last year.


Mariupol, Ukraine

Ukrainians dancers and musicians showed their support for refugees at an outdoor concert in Mariupol at the weekend. Some two million people have been displaced by conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014. The city recently faced rocket attacks and electricity cuts that left thousands without vital services in freezing temperatures.


Paris, France

Eighty-four restaurants are taking part in this year’s much expanded Refugee Food Festival, now being held in 13 European cities across six countries. Running through June 30, it gives refugee chefs from countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Somalia, Syria and Ukraine the chance to tempt European diners with dishes from home. Last year the festival took place in Paris and Strasbourg.


European Refugee Food Festival on june 16th in Pantin with syrian refugee Chef Nabil Attar cooking with french chef Walid Sahed at Les Pantins restaurant.

Syrian refugee chef Nabil Attar and French chef Walid Sahed show their joint creation at Les Pantins restaurant in Paris on June 16, 2017.   © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau


Stockholm, Sweden

As a prelude to World Refugee Day in Sweden, UNHCR organized a pop-up philharmonic concert for passers-by in central Stockholm. The concert was performed by the El Sistema Sweden Dream Orchestra, an NGO that works with newly arrived asylum-seeking children and uses music as a way of helping them to integrate. Most of the youngsters had never played an instrument before joining the orchestra.