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World Refugee Day homes in on solutions for refugees

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World Refugee Day homes in on solutions for refugees

18 June 2004

18 June 2004

GENEVA - UNHCR and its partners around the globe are marking World Refugee Day on Sunday (June 20) with a variety of special events and activities focusing on this year's theme, "A Place to Call Home."

"All of us need a place to call home - a place where we belong. But for the millions of refugees and displaced people around the world today, home is little more than a distant dream," said UNHCR High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers.

In Barcelona, Spain, Lubbers and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie will participate in the central World Refugee Day event as part of the "Universal Forum of Cultures."

At a special ceremony on Sunday evening, the annual Nansen Refugee Award will be given to the Russian Memorial Human Rights Centre for their outstanding contribution towards protecting the rights of refugees and displaced persons in the Russian Federation.

This year's theme, "A Place to Call Home," was chosen to highlight the continuing efforts of UNHCR and its partners in finding lasting solutions for millions of refugees and displaced people worldwide.

Contrary to public opinion in many rich countries, the overwhelming majority of refugees want to return to their own homes, even if they have been devastated by war.

The latest statistics show the global number of refugees and others of concern to UNHCR, some 17 million people, has fallen to the lowest level in a decade as many return home.

Around the world, World Refugee Day will be marked by events as diverse as traditional dance and music performances, sports competitions, film festivals, debates, press conferences and an art auction.

In Australia, handmade hearts will be planted for 'Field of Hearts' installations in major cities; refugee children in Jordan will present their view of life in exile through photos taken on disposable cameras; in Sierra Leone, refugee students will march through the streets of Freetown; while Ecuador will host a festival of films directed by refugees like Milos Forman and Billy Wilder.

In Ireland, there will be a press conference with refugees who have settled in the country showing their positive contribution to Irish society, and Canada will celebrate World Refugee Day with a citizenship ceremony for refugees.

All the events will draw attention to the need to find lasting solutions for refugees - a return to their own home, integration in the country of first asylum or resettlement in another country.

"Despite the enormity of their suffering, refugees never give up their dream of home and all it entails ... the fact they maintain that hope, sometimes against all odds, should be an inspiration to us all," High Commissioner Lubbers said.