Live Blog: World Refugee Day is held amid record displacement

From Australasia to the Americas, UNHCR is celebrating the courage and determination of children, women and men driven from their homes.

Dancers perform at a World Refugee Day event in the port city of Catania, Sicily.
© UNHCR/Alessio Mamo

GENEVA – From dance parties to food festivals and urban hikes, millions of people around the world are taking part in events to celebrate World Refugee Day at a time when the number of children, women and men uprooted by wars and persecution has broken all records.

The event, held on 20 June each year, honours the courage and determination of those who have been forced to flee their homes. This year, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is asking people from all walks of life to join the #StepWIthRefugees global challenge in solidarity with refugees who each year trek 1 billion miles to reach the nearest point of safety.

Check back here throughout the day for updates:

New York, United States

The iconic Empire State building turned UN blue to honour World Refugee Day.

The Empire State building in New York City turned its lighting blue to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June 2019.  © UNHCR/Silvie Bonne

UNHCR, WeWork and coffee entrepreneurs Everyman Coffee and Refoodee celebrated refugees in the community with a joyful event that featured food cooked by refugees, live poetry, coffee tasting and shopping of goods made by and in support of refugees.


Buenos Aires, Argentina

Latin Vox Machine, an orchestra of 100 Latin American musicians, filled up Buenos Aires' Centro Cultural Kirchner for a special free concert on World Refugee Day. Latin Vox Machine was founded in Argentina in 2017. Most of its musicians come from Venezuela but there are also artists from Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Syria in the band, among other countries.


Moscow, Russia

Asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Ukraine attended the opening of an excursion about forced migration through the eyes of artists of the 20th century held in the State Tretyakov gallery, as part of the inter-museum festival “Point of Displacement”.

Two Afghan girls admiring artworks at the State Tretyakov gallery in Moscow during the inter-museum festival "Point of Displacement."  © UNHCR/Dmitriy Barkhatov


Baku, Azerbaijan

Renowned Azerbaijani piano player Isfar Sarabski performed at the International Mugham Centre in Baku, where UNHCR held an event with the Government of Azerbaijan to mark World Refugee Day. Together with his quartet, Sarabski played two extended pieces, both composed by him. The talented piano player won the Montreux Jazz Festival solo piano competition in 2009, at the age of 19.


Melkadida, Ethiopia

Clowns Without Borders entertained thousands of children at Melkadida refugee camp, which hosts more than 200,000 refugees. The team of four clowns from Spain performed magic tricks and brought joy to the crowd of children and grown-ups.

Ethiopia. Clowns Without Borders celebrate World Refugee Day in Melkadida

Clowns Without Borders performs a clown show at Melkadida refugee camp, Ethiopia to celebrate World Refugee Day.  © UNHCR/Ariadne Kypriadi


Lima, Peru

The Lima Symphony Project, an orchestra formed by Venezuelan and Peruvian musicians, surprised travelers at Terminal Plaza Norte in the Peruvian capital with an impromptu concert.


Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia celebrated World Refugee Day and the opening of the Estonian Refugee Council's new centre in Tallinn. Dami showed the guests some vibrant dance moves from her home country of Nigeria. The centre will be a platform where refugee cooks will be given the opportunity to start their catering enterprises, with the support of UNHCR.

Nigerian refugee Dami dancing at the opening of the Estonian Refugee Council's new centre in Tallinn.  © UNHCR/Annela Samuel


Geneva, Switzerland

Violin professor Hong Anh Shapiro is a former refugee from Vietnam who now heads the violin school Violonissimo in Switzerland. Her students performed at UNHCR's headquarters to celebrate World Refugee Day.


Juba, South Sudan

Refugees and UNHCR staff stepped on the catwalk at the 2019 World Refugee Day celebrations in Juba that took place at UNHCR's compound.

South Sudan. 2019 World Refugee Day

UNHCR staff and refugees pose on a catwalk during World Refugee Day celebrations in Juba, South Sudan.  © UNHCR/Elizabeth Stuart


Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Some 2,000 children and parents enjoyed an open-air puppet show in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe. The play, called “Neighbours,” promotes strong bonds between host communities and refugees.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Skytree, the world's tallest tower and one of Tokyo's most popular sightseeing locations, is among 15 Japanese landmarks that are glowing UN Blue to mark World Refugee Day. Last October, the International Olympic Committee announced that a Refugee Olympic Team will compete in the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Tokyo Skytree is one of 15 Japanese landmarks lit up in UN Blue to mark World Refugee Day.   © UNHCR/LIFE.14 


Kutupalong refugee settlement, Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have marked World Refugee Day by calling on the world to join the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign. The global campaign invites people to show solidarity with refugees by running, walking or cycling to achieve a cumulative total of two billion kilometres.

Most of the 740,00 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar since August 2017 made the journey on foot through forests.


London, United Kingdom

A variety of World Refugee Day celebrations have been taking place at London's iconic St Paul's Cathedral, with performances by actors Emily Watson and Rufus Hound, cellist Steven Isserlis and a refugee choir. Last week, the UK pledged to welcome between 5,000 and 6,000 refugees in 2020–2021.

A choir performs as part of World Refugee Day celebrations at London's iconic St Paul's Cathedral.  © UNHCR/ G Lacdao


Mtendeli refugee camp, Tanzania

In Tanzania, refugees from Burundi have been celebrating World Refugee Day with traditional drumming and dancing. The East African nation is home to over 312,000 refugees. Almost half of them live in Nyarugusu camp in Kigoma.


Amman, Jordan

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi is celebrating World Refugee Day in Jordan, a “courageous country” that despite its small size currently hosts more than 755,000 refugees from 57 nations.

“It is important to remind the world of Jordan’s example,” he told an event in the capital, Amman, to mark the occasion. “We should not forget that you are sharing more than just space, that you are giving a lot to refugees, and the international community must give back.”

Grandi visited a refugee bazaar held in Amman’s historic downtown, where he chatted with dozens of refugee vendors selling everything from savoury cheese pastries to recycled handicrafts and fragrant Aleppo soap.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visits the WithRefugees Summer Bazaar in Amman, Jordan.  © UNHCR/Diego Ibarra Sanchez

Syrian refugee Bassam, who recycles garment factory off-cuts into purses, notebooks and bags, showed the High Commissioner his products and told him: “Refugees have ideas. They are people with knowledge, skills and crafts."

In a speech, Grandi praised Amman as a City of Light for its role in hosting refugees. The Jordanian capital is part of a growing global network of municipalities that are opting to embrace refugees and the opportunities they bring. From Sao Paulo to Vienna, these Cities of Light are giving hope to the world’s most vulnerable by offering sanctuary and the chance to become part of the social fabric.


Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Forcibly displaced children in Goma drew pictures capturing what being a refugee means to them. Almost five million people are internally displaced by conflict inside the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and over 790,000 have fled to neighbouring countries


Bidibidi refugee settlement, Uganda

Swaying and shaking their hips, residents of Bidibidi refugee settlement in Uganda celebrated with dance. The country hosted more than 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers as of October 2018, mainly from South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Geneva, Switzerland

Scouts have set up non-formal education in camps such as one in Dzaleka, Malawi, to help young refugees learn life skills, build self-confidence and become leaders. On World Refugee Day the scouting movement pledged its solidairty with the displaced.


Vakhdat, Tajikistan

Smiles all round: Children watch a puppet show in Tajikistan to celebrate World Refugee Day. This year, UNHCR and partners hope around 2,500 children at risk of statelessness in the Central Asian republic will be issued birth certificates, ensuring they can access schools, healthcare, and – one day – find work.

Tajikistan. World Refugee Day celebration

Children watch a puppet show in Vakhdat, Tajikistan, in honour of World Refugee Day  © UNHCR/Didor Sadulloev


Cúcuta, Colombia

UNHCR staff, Venezuelan refugees and displaced Colombians were among 2,000 runners who took part in a half marathon in Cúcuta. The Colombian city borders Venezuela and is one of the principal crossing points for people fleeing the deepening political, economic and human rights crisis there.

Runners pose for a picture in Cúcuta, Colombia after completing the city's half marathon.   © UNHCR/Fernando Hernandez


Niamey, Niger

More than 100 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers found safety in Niger on World Refugee Day after being evacuated on a charter flight from Libya. They were among 1,297 who have been evacuated to safety on the flights this year, 711 of whom went to Niger.


New York, USA

UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid tribute to the courage and resilience of 70 million forcibly displaced people in a World Refugee Day address.


Rwamwanja refugee settlement, Uganda

Drummers and trombonists led a procession to plant trees at Rwamwanja refugee settlement in south-west Uganda. The environmental drive seeks to replace forest cover lost in the restless search for firewood.


Bangkok, Thailand

A commuter train rattles through the Thai capital, decked out in UNHCR colours. The train is promoting the #StepWIthRefugees global challenge in solidarity with refugees who each year trek 1 billion miles in search of safety.


Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In a display of entrepreneurial flair, Rwandan refugees sell handmade sandals, handbags and headscarfs at a market in Kinshasa to celebrate World Refugee Day. The DRC hosted more than 536,000 refugees in 2018, while 4.5 million people were also displaced inside the country.

Democratic Republic of Congo. Urban refugee entrepreneurs setting up a market for World Refugee Day in Kinshasa.

Two urban refugees from Rwanda sell their handmade accessories at a market to celebrate World Refugee Day in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  © UNHCR/Fabien Faivre


Syracuse, Italy

Children wait for a performance to start at the Greek Theatre of Syracuse, in south-east Sicily. Artists, actors and dancers performed before enthusiastic crowds at the ancient theatre, which dates back some 2,500 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Greek Theatre, Siracusa, Italy
Famous Italian artists, actors and dancers celebrate the World Refugee Day at the ancient Greek Theatre of Siracusa in Sicily, through dance performances, reading from UNHCR book "Superman was a refugee, too" and the monologue "The Abyss" on the desperate sea crossings

Children wait for a performances to start at the ancient Greek Theatre of Syracuse in Sicily.  © UNHCR/Alessio Mamo


Sydney, Australia

Refugees and local residents braved showers to walk Sydney's famous harbour. The urban hike contributed an estimated 1 million paces to the #StepWithRefugees campaign.

Australia. On the iconic Sydney Harbour, UNHCR celebrates World Refugee Day

Australians walk together with their neighbours from refugee backgrounds around Sydney harbour to celebrate World Refugee Day.  © UNHCR/Brook Mitchell


Kathmandu, Nepal

Bhutanese refugees and their Nepalese hosts danced to a fusion beat in Nepal. For decades, the mountain nation has been a generous host to refugees, particularly to the over 100,000 refugees from Bhutan, 90 per cent of whom have now been resettled to third countries.



Rome, Italy

Diners relax on the terrace at Caffè Nemorense during a World Refugee Day food festival in Rome. The +Gusto event, organized by UNHCR and its partners, gave refugee chefs and waiters from 11 Italian restaurants the chance to showcase recipes from all over the world.

Italy.Food experience event 1Gusto in Rome.2019

Customers enjoy the terrace at Caffè Nemorense during an event organized by UNHCR for World Refugee Day in Rome, Italy.  © UNHCR/Alessandro Penso


Berlin, Germany

A delegation of refugee students take part in the #StepWithRefugees challenge in Berlin ahead of World Refugee Day, contributing over 350,000 steps to the global campaign.

Germany. Refugee student delegation tours Berlin ahead of international conference on Higher Education for Refugees.

An international delegation of refugee students and alumni join the StepWithRefugees challenge.  © UNHCR/Antoine Tardy