World Refugee Day 2018

World Refugee day is an opportunity to remember all these who have had to leave their homes, livelihoods and quite often extended family to seek protection and shelter.

Celebration in Kharkiv on the occasion of the World Refugee Day.
© UNHCR Ukraine

According to this year’s UNHCR “Global Trends reports”, 68.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2017, including 16.2 million people displaced during 2017 itself, either for the first time or repeatedly and 25.4 million refugees who have fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution.

This is 2.9 million more than in 2016. Among these, Ukraine hosts 1,6 Million IDPs and over 3,200 refugees. Despite these large numbers, High Commissioner Filippo Grandi reminds us this year that “we must never lose sight of the people behind the numbers, and their determination, resilience and courage to persevere despite the odds.”

World Refugee Day was celebrated throughout Ukraine during the week of 17-24 June.  Events in cities like Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, Mukachevo, Odessa and Severodonetsk, as well as villages such as Stanytsya Luhanska and Chasiv Yar centered on screening of the documentary Human Flow (directed by contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei), performances by “Clowns Without Borders” and public events targeting children and adults. These events were organized in cooperation with persons of concern, NGO partner organizations, and government authorities.  A Russian-language weekly magazine published a supplement on UNHCR, refugees in Ukraine and around the world, as well as IDPs in Ukraine.

To emphasize the positive contributions of refugees and IDPs to their host communities, on 14 of June, the weekly Russian-language magazine Nova Vremiya (circulation 20,000, over 60,000 readers), in partnership with UNHCR, published a special supplement on the theme of forced displacement. In the 32-page supplement readers could learn about successful stories of refugees and IDPs finding durable solutions in Ukraine:

  • Asan, an Afghan refugee who studied information technology in Ukraine, co-founded the Civic Organization “United Youth”, based in Odesa, which supports and advocates for the integration of young refugees in Ukraine. Today, Asan participates in TV programs and conferences to voice the concerns and integration challenges of refugees in Ukraine.
  • Dina Ibrahimova, the founder of Veselka TV (an NGO that sponsors a TV studio where young IDP children learn to be broadcasters and presenters). The NGO was previously based in Luhansk city. However, because of the crisis in 2014, the staff of Veselka TV were displaced from Luhansk to Kyiv. Despite their displacement, most of the staff and children continued to operate in Kyiv and the NGO has become a platform to engage with and support displaced children. In 2017, UNHCR supported Veselka TV to prepare and record audio books for visually-impaired children, thus, contributing to the promotion of a more inclusive society.

On 20 June, UNHCR’s main event was hosted at the Cultural Center “Cinema “Kyiv” where over 200 members of the diplomatic community, international organizations, NGOs and from the refugee and IDP community participated. The event’s highlight was a screening of the documentary film “Human Flow” by Chinese contemporary artist and refugee activist Ai Wei Wei. The movie was filmed in 23 countries and over 40 refugee camps. The screening of this documentary film was chosen as it provides the large numbers of displaced in UNHCR’s “Global Trends Report” a “human face” to the guests invited for the occasion. Before the screening, opening remarks were provided by the UNHCR Representative in Ukraine and the Head of the State Migration Services of Ukraine. The third speaker was Ms. Ilyana Massoud, herself displaced twice, first as a refugee from Syria, and secondly as an internally displaced person from Donetsk to Kyiv. In her inspiring speech she encouraged the audience to be more welcoming and accepting of forcible displaced person by saying: “Let’s not put walls, let’s build bridges. Please see the human in us [displaced] and show us kindness and acceptance, as this gives us hope.”

Also on 20 June, UNHCR Ukraine’s NGO partner “Rokada” organized an open-air public event in Taras Shevchenko Park, one of the most visited parks in Kyiv. The organizers offered visitors various master-classes, such as traditional Ukrainian Motanka-making, as well as singing, dancing and poetry shows performed by persons of concern. Around 300 persons attended the open air event, including refugees from various countries and who reside in Kyiv. During the event, UNHCR emphasized the importance of celebrating the courage, resilience and determination of refugees, and thanked Ukrainians for welcoming the refugees so warmly at a time when other countries are putting up walls.