Live Blog: World Refugee Day kicks off amid record displacement
GENEVA, June 20 (UNHCR) – Millions of people across the globe, led by artists, musicians and even chefs, are marking World Refugee Day with a series of celebratory events that stand in stark contrast to grim figures showing that wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since records began.
From Asia to the Americas, people are using the event – which falls each year on June 20 – to honour the courage and resilience of those who have been forced to flee their homes to reach safety. Many are also promoting UNHCR's petition by showing that they stand #WithRefugees. Check back here throughout the day for updates.
Washington, D.C., USA
Attending an interfaith iftar reception with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt urged the world not to turn its back on conflicts that had displaced 65 million people. "If I ask people for anything on this day, it is to take a moment and to truly grasp what a refugee crisis of today’s magnitude means for peace and security of the world," she told reporters.
"We face a very clear choice: to continue as we are and see displacement and insecurity grow, or, to come together with other nations and find a new approach, one that does not focus solely on aid and resettlement, but on solution, stability and returns." She added: "Strength lies in mastering and channeling our emotions so that we pursue policies that reduce – not inflame – threats to our security."
The Puerta de Alcalá is illuminated blue for World Refugee Day.
The world-famous Palazzo Vecchio is lit up in blue for World Refugee Day – one of many such gestures across Italy, to which many refugees fleeing war and persecution have turned for help.
For the second year in a row, a concert will be held in Florence to celebrate World Refugee Day. Fifteen rock bands will be on stage to stand #WithRefugees. During the course of the evening refugees will also take to the stage to share their stories, hopes and dreams. A documentary film about the importance of access to education for Syrian refugee children will also be shown.
To mark World Refugee Day, Syrian, Iraqi, Kurdish and Indian musicians put on an amazing multi-cultural concert in Beirut, a city many now call home.
Renowned oud player Naseer Shamma today treated residents of Al Salam camp in Baghdad to a concert resonating wtih history. The stringed instrument dates back thousands of years to the early pharaonic era.
Commuters walk past portraits of refugees at Tokyo’s Omotesando metro station. Each day some six million people use Tokyo’s subway system. The display aims to put a human face on the word “refugee” for those making the journey to and from work.
Seoul, South Korea
A video featuring UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Jung Woo-sung is screened outside Seoul City Hall in solidarity #WithRefugees. It shows the actor, model and director on mission in Lebanon for the Refugee Agency, and has been playing in the spot since June 7.
Last summer thousands of refugees fleeing war and persecution passed through Keleti train station in Hungary's capital. Many, but not all, moved on elsewhere. To mark World Refugee Day, UNHCR, refugees and volunteers opened a photo exhibition telling their stories.
Chad has hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees for decades. There are currently about 370,000 refugees from Sudan, Nigeria and the Central African Republic living in the country. Even on World Refugee Day, UNHCR is assisting around 2,000 new arrivals from recent clashes in CAR.
Mexico City, Mexico
Actors perform a play for children in Mexico City to mark World Refugee Day. The show – entitled "Little and Extraordinary Things" or "Cosas Pequeñas y Extraordinarias" in Spanish – was written and directed by Daniela Arroio and Micaela Gramajo. Mexico currently hosts thousands of Central American refugees fleeing gang and other violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees made a human tower at Ethiopia's Tsore camp and stood tall #WithRefugees. Ethiopia hosts the largest refugee population in Africa with more than 734,000 people from South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Yemen and other countries. Tsore is the newest of the country's 24 refugee camps.
Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
More than 380,000 refugees from countries including Central African Republic, South Sudan and Burundi have sought safety in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this city in the east of the country, hundreds of refugees and locals ran through the streets in a show of solidarity #WithRefugees.
Za’atari Camp, Jordan
UNHCR staff and youth volunteers took up paints and brushes to brighten up the former kitchens at Za’atari camp, which is home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees.
A refugee team is set to make history in August when they compete in the Olympic Games under the IOC flag. At the heart of the team are five South Sudanese runners. They were serenaded at a ceremony in Nairobi today, along with their trainer, Tegla Loroupe, the world champion Kenyan runner who started a foundation to promote peace through sports.
Ten restaurants across Paris are taking part in the three-day Refugee Food Festival. Refugee chefs are pulling on uniforms and cooking up dishes from their countries of origin. The dishes are then placed on the menu.
New Delhi, India
On a typical day, 2.4 million commuters ride New Delhi’s bustling 160-stop metro system. On World Refugee Day, commuters passing through Rajiv Chowk, the subway’s busiest station, took a moment to stand #WithRefugees.
Cyclists took to the streets of the Nepali capital on Sunday in solidarity with more than 65 million people driven from their homes around the world by war and persecution. In Nepal itself, more than 500,000 people lost their homes when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake tore through the Himalayan kingdom in April 2015, flattening thousands of villages and towns and seriously damaging the capital.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi marked World Refugee Day with UNHCR colleagues in the Iranian capital on Saturday. Grandi praised Iran for its decades-long work helping millions of refugees at great cost. He also noted that the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan made it very difficult for people to go back. The priority now, he said, is helping young refugees.
UNHCR colleagues in the Syrian capital marked World Refugee Day a little early with a friendly game of football. Joining them on the pitch were refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Iraq – who fled their own countries but are now surrounded by another conflict – as well as staff from other UN agencies working inside Syria.
A walk through the Cameroonian capital in solidarity with refugeees drew a spirited turnout on Saturday. Cameroon is generously hosting 350,000 refugees from Central African Republic, Nigeria and Sudan.
The 6th Fair Play Football cup kicked off over the weekend with a high-profile supporter in the stands: Irish President Michael Higgins. Some 20 teams with 500 participants – including refugees, asylum-seekers and other players – are taking part in the tournament this year.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met refugees this weekend on the Greek island of Lesvos, which became a key entry point last year for refugees seeking safety in Europe. He called on countries in the region to respond with a humane and human rights-based approach, instead of border closures, barriers and bigotry. “Today, I met refugees from some of the world's most troubled places," Ban said. "They have lived through a nightmare. And that nightmare is not over.”