World Refugee Day 2019 in Ukraine

Thousands of people all over Ukraine demonstrated solidarity with refugees and internally displaced people.

On 20 June, the World Refugee Day was observed globally with a theme #StepWithRefugees. The UNHCR called on communities, schools, businesses, faith groups and people from all walks of life to take big and small steps in solidarity with refugees at a time when the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018, the highest level that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has seen in its almost 70 years.

To inform public in Ukraine on the latest information and data on forced displacement around the world and to present the latest Global Trends report, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine jointly with the First Deputy Head of the State Migration Service in Ukraine and representatives of NGOs working with asylum seekers and refugees held a press briefing which was attended by local journalists.

Pablo Mateu, UNHCR representative in Ukraine, informed journalists that by the end of 2018, 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced, each with their own story to tell, each with a life or family uprooted, broken or lost.

More than half of them (over 41 million) are internally displaced people (IDPs). Tragically, Ukraine has contributed to this number after witnessing its largest ever internal displacement crisis, with more than 1,3 million (1 383 700) IDPs being currently registered by the Ministry of Social Policy.

In 2018, nearly 26 million people globally  were refugees who fled primarily to neighbouring countries. More than 2/3 of the world’s refugees are from only five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia. People often confuse these people with migrants but the difference is that refugees cannot go back; such return represents big danger for their lives.

Ukraine currently hosts 2,620 refugees and persons granted complementary protection. And, there are also around 6,500 asylum-seekers, who are waiting for results of their asylum application review by migration service or courts.

“At UNHCR, we see many good stories of refugees who have successfully integrated in Ukraine. But many problems remain, and majority of refugees and asylum-seekers have little chance of becoming self-sufficient in Ukraine. Despite these challenges, during UNHCR participatory assessment in spring 2019, refugees and asylum-seekers spoke about a greater interest in language learning and livelihoods, showing that many wish to make a long-term home in Ukraine.” – said Pablo Mateu, UNHCR Representative, in his speech at the press briefing.

“UNHCR works closely with the Ukrainian authorities on building an asylum system that extends protection and promotes durable solutions. Based on an assessment developed jointly with the State Migration Service in 2018, as well as the participatory assessment with refugees and asylum-seekers in 2019, UNHCR advocates for a number of improvements to the asylum system in 2019-2020.

In particular, the UNHCR calls on the Ukrainian Government to adopt a procedure for considering asylum applications at international airports, provide adequate funding and procedures for the use of interpreters, and avoid detention of asylum seekers. We believe that asylum-seekers must have access to free urgent medical care, and access to employment must be simple and practical,” – said Mr. Mateu.











TV Marathon on UkrLife online TV channel

Both refugees and experts working with refugee issues attended the all day long TV marathon on UkrLife online TV channel. The interviews are available in English and/or Ukrainian and Russian languages.












World Refugee Day was celebrated throughout Ukraine during the week of 17-24 June. 


On 20 June, UNHCR Ukraine’s NGO partner “Rokada” jointly with NGO R2P organized an open-air public event in Taras Shevchenko Park, one of the most visited parks in Kyiv. The organizers offered visitors a speaking club, various master-classes, as well as singing, dancing performed by persons of concern. Around 500 persons attended the open air event, including refugees from various countries and those 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.















Beside, UNHCR also joined the most large-scale annual sports event in Ukraine, which took place in Kyiv on 26th May 2019. This year the organizers encouraged the “Chestnut Run” participants to make a symbolic solidarity act with refugees and IDPs and dedicate their kilometres as part of UNHCR campaign “2 billion kilometers to safety”.

UNHCR Пробіг під каштанами 2019 06232





In general, thousands of people in Ukraine joined UNHCR “2 billion kilometers to safety” campaign #StepWithRefugees:







The UNHCR field unit in Kharkiv organized a run for 5 and 10 km in the scope of the #StepWithRefugees campaign, gathering around displaced and local population to show solidarity, support and compassion with people forced to flee their homes. The event supported by the local government was highly appreciated by the participants despite the heat (+30) and received sponsor support from the Canadian embassy in Ukrainian and local companies.



On 20 June, extended Protection Working Group meeting took place in Slovyansk. The meeting was dedicated to the observance of the World Refugee Day and internal displacement crisis in the East of Ukraine. Among the issues discussed was streamlining of cooperation within the humanitarian development nexus (HDN); challenges, prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence in the region and achievements of partners in combatting it; the situation and needs for improvements at the entry-exit checkpoints in the east of Ukraine; situation at collective centres hosting IDPs, and more. Women’s Club from Svyatogirsk presented the Forum Theatre sharing their experiences during five years of internal displacement. More than 50 participants represented state authorities, international organizations, and local civil society organizations.


Sviatohirsk is a small town in the north part of Donetsk GCA with some 5000 of local population and some 7000 IDPs displaced. An initiative group of IDPs in consultations with the UNHCR partner Slavic Heart conducted an event within the Global “Step with refugees” campaign for some 400 persons to join the plogging event, which was followed by a concert with participation of IDP and local children of the Sviatohirsk dancing club; Sloviansk club of dancers in wheelchairs, Chermalyk Greek Community, Luhansk GCA active communities and other active initiatives that joined the festival. During the event Slavic Heart organized a fair of handmade items produced by IDPs and local community under the community mobilization projects funded by UNHCR. All the money fundraised at the fair will go to benefit of SGBV survivors supported by Slavic Heart.



On 20 July 2019, UNHCR together with authorities of Marinskyi Raion, local Administration and Department of Social Protection of Marinskiy Raion held the World Refugee Day commemoration event in the town of Marinka. The event was also attended by representatives of various municipal entities, including Head of the Center for children with disabilities “Vohnyk Nadii”, as well as by local mass media. In order to enhance the solidarity of local communities with those forcibly displaced all over the world, UNHCR together with local conflict-affected and IDP communities planted 20 saplings of evergreen “Trees of Peace and Solidarity” at the alley located near the Center for children with disabilities. Within the event, Head of Marinskiy Raion has signed the “Cities #WithRefugees” document, thus emphasizing the strive of local authorities in  creation inclusive communities and mainstreaming of hope, which has never been so important yet.

On 20 June, Marinka, Donetsk region has signed the Cities #WithRefugees Solidarity statement. This gesture of solidarity with refugees is all the more important as UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report shows that approximately 61 per cent of all refugees and 80 per cent of internally displaced people live in urban areas. Cities, local authorities and municipalities play a central role in supporting and welcoming refugees and other displaced people. They offer safety and shelter and can enable access to local services, education and job opportunities.



On June 21, NGO “Tenth April” with support of the UNHCR and representatives of the national communities organized cultural festival “Celebrate diversity” in the City Garden of Odesa.

Everyone could find something to one’s preference. Some acquainted with brewing famous Moroccan coffee and others were learning techniques of henna painting. Guests also had the opportunity to taste traditional dishes prepared by representatives of the national communities of the city. The children had fun in the company of animators.

The main event of the Festival was a run, as part of the #StepWithRefugees global  the campaign. The participants ran in the city’s central streets in solidarity with refugees all over the world. After the run, everyone could leave their wishes to refugees on a special wall. There were so many wishes that by the end of the Festival there was no free space on the wall. At the evening visitors enjoyed concert of musical and dance groups.














Presentation of the “5 stories” documentary

Moreover, NGO “Tenth April” has organized a presentation of “5 stories” documentary at PMA Odesa Hub.

Five different people from all over the world. Five different stories. What unites them is the fact they were all forced to leave their homes, and came to Odesa seeking a better life. Now Ukraine is their second homeland. Movie on what it means to be a refugee from Guinea, Syria, Russia, Afghanistan.

Another part of the event was children’s paintings exhibition. All works presented at the exhibition were made by children residing at a temporary accommodation centres for refugees.







NGO Proliska delivered to local citizens WRD presentation followed by discussion and story sharing. Participants of the celebration shared their stories and presented poetry. The event continued by handicrafts master-class on “motanka” doll – traditional Ukrainian handmade doll that is believed to protect the house from evil spirits and ghosts.



WRD celebration gathered children and youth not only from Valuyske, but also form the neighboring villages Makarovo, Bolotenne, Syze and Olkhove. For youngest participants Proliska and R2P conducted master classes in drawing, origami, face-painting. For youth, R2P conducted WRD presentation, followed by movie screening (“Welcome” by Philippe Lioret) and discussion.


During the event, staff members of the NGO R2P delivered a presentation on WRD. Together with NGO Proliska’s psychologist we continued with an art-therapy master-class and psychological support sessions. Initial plan to conduct movie screening for the participants of the event did not work out due to power cut; it was agreed to reschedule the screening of the movie for the 3rd July 2019.


NGOs of IDPs in the cities of Ivano-Frankivsk, Poltava and Lubny joined to the celebration of the World Refugee Day. The UNHCR Global Campaign “2 Billion kilometers to safety” was supported by a football competition for children and a Scandinavian walk. NGO League of Tolerance Ліга Толерантності in Ivano-Frankivsk organized a football tournament for IDP children, youth, and local community, where 100 participants demonstrated their solidarity with refugees and internally displaced persons. Young football players also had the opportunity to see a photo exhibition from the UEFA Foundation for Children. Pictures of famous refugee football players for the social project for children in Ukraine from the FARE network were displayed. Another project, School of Practical Hobbies “Vulyk” from Poltava and the initiative group “Scandinavian Walk +”, together with Poltava Oblast Youth NGO “Tviy Svit” in Lubny, organized Scandinavian walk as an action to support refugees. The events were supported by the UNHCR in Ukraine, together with the partner organization NGO “Crimea_SOS”.





Mayumi Maruyama, a US Peace corps volunteer made a video dedicated to the World Refugee Day in Ukraine: