Statement by Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for 2006 World Refugee Day, 20 June 2006
Imagine what it's like to be a refugee, forced to flee persecution, civil war or violence and leaving behind everything that is there - home, family and friends. And suddenly, you find yourself in a strange land, dependent on the protection and help of others. Imagine the sense of isolation, of helplessness, of anxiety about an uncertain future.
And yet, if there is one common trait among the tens of millions of refugees that we at the UN refugee agency have helped over the past 55 years, it's the fact that despite losing everything, they never give up hope.
On this World Refugee Day of 2006, we honour refugees and displaced people all over the world who, on the strength of that hope, have overcome enormous odds to start rebuilding their lives. Each refugee has a different story, but collectively theirs is a story about the triumph of hope over despair.
"Each refugee has a different story, but collectively theirs is a story about the triumph of hope over despair."
And we at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees draw great inspiration from their tenacity and courage. We are often asked how we can face the grim reality of our work, year after year, without feeling discouraged. And our answer is simple: if the refugees themselves don't give up hope, how can we?
Their perseverance inspires all of us who work with them to do everything we can to find solutions so that they can get on with their lives. These solutions include voluntary repatriation back to their homeland once conditions allow, or - if this is not possible - integration in the country of first asylum or resettlement to a third country.
In turn, the prospect of such solutions enables refugees to maintain their hope for a better future. And over the past 55 years, UNHCR and its partners have helped more than 50 million uprooted people to re-start their lives - and that work continues in more than 100 countries.
But unfortunately, more than 5 million refugees have been in exile for five years or longer - and some of them for decades. Keeping their hope alive is the responsibility of everyone, including international leaders who should be doing more to resolve these situations and to address the root causes of conflict and displacement.
All of us can do our part to give hope to the uprooted - from a simple, welcoming smile to refugees in our own communities, to the participation of individuals, businesses and governments in supporting the field activities of the many humanitarian agencies caring for the displaced. World Refugee Day is part of that common effort as we gather June 20 in cities and towns, in refugee camps and in remote settlements to pay tribute to the courageous, unwavering hope of the world's refugees - and to assure them that they are not forgotten.