UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi speaks about the migration crisis during a press meeting at the UNHCR office in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 6, 2016. / AFP / TT News Agency / FREDRIK SANDBERG / Sweden OUT (Photo credit should read FREDRIK SANDBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
On June 20, World Refugee Day, we honour the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee war, persecution and violence. But it’s also a moment to recognise those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces and their societies.
Today we live in a world in which uncertainty often abounds; economic instability, political upheaval and violence close to home can make us want to shut our eyes or close our doors. But fear and exclusion will not lead us to a better place – they can only lead to barriers, alienation and despair.
It’s time to change this trajectory. And for the better.
In countless communities around the world, including in the poorest countries that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees, business people, faith communities, teachers, journalists and many more are joining together to provide refuge to the displaced and foster their inclusion in their societies.
Through UNHCR’s work – often on the front lines of conflict -we witness the courage, tenacity and brilliance of refugees every single day.
Having lost their homes, their work, and sometimes their families – they don’t give up – they find a way to start again. Striving to belong, and to contribute, they reach out to their new neighbours, building connections, and creating new opportunities. Given the right environment, our experience is that refugees bring solutions, not problems.
Inclusion requires opening our minds, hearts and communities to refugees. It requires a whole of society approach – joining up students, business leaders, athletes, activists, religious leaders, politicians and artists – to share responsibility. And welcoming refugees cannot be at the expense of helping others, but should broaden support to all who need a hand.
There are outstanding examples of this in villages, towns and cities in countries on every continent. In big and small ways, communities around the world are standing together #WithRefugees – recognising that when people work together, everyone wins.
So on World Refugee Day, when we pause to contemplate the fate of the millions of people who cannot return to their homes tonight because of war or persecution – it’s also a moment to ask ourselves what each of us can do to overcome indifference or fear and embrace the idea of inclusion, to welcome refugees to our own communities, and to counter narratives that would seek to exclude and marginalize refugees and other uprooted people.
Because, when we stand together #WithRefugees, we also stand for respect and diversity for all.