Wednesday, 20 January 2021

UN in your language

Rome focus of World Refugee Day

The UN refugee agency, in its 60th year,marks World Refugee Day with a rich and varied programme of events in locations worldwide and the launch of a new global awareness campaign (see separate story).

The Italian capital of Rome will be the focus of this year's events on World Refugee Day itself (June 20), with High Commissioner António Guterres due to present UNHCR's annual statistics report on the number of people of concern to the agency.


He will also preside over a special commemorative event that will be attended by Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano and six refugees, including a Polish survivor of the Holocaust in World War II.

Rome's ancient Colosseum will again be bathed in UN blue, one of many monuments around the world to be spotlit to mark the occasion, including the iconic Empire State Building in New York.

From light shows to food bazaars

Activities and special events will not be restricted to June 20, but will start in the week ahead of the special day. Guterres, for example, will be going to Italy's Lampedusa Island on June 19 to meet some of the thousands of people – including refugees and asylum-seekers – who have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea on overcrowded vessels from Libya.

UNHCR activities on World Refugee Day include a wide range of activities, including light shows, film screenings, lectures, panel discussions, food bazaars, fashion shows, cultural performances, concerts and sports contests.

There will also be competitions, tree planting, speeches, poetry recitals and photography exhibitions.

The agency's partners, including governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, Angelina Jolie and our other Goodwill Ambassadors, will be doing their part to help.

Football tournaments

Several European countries Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Portugal – will be holding special football tournaments between citizens of the host countries and refugees and asylum-seekers in cooperation with local partner organizations. A number of countries in Europe will also hold umbrella parades, symbolising protection, including the United Kingdom and Austria.

In the French capital, Paris, UNHCR and several partners will on June 27 organize a WRD-linked writers' conference on exile, asylum and identity. It will bring together a number of writers who are, or have been, refugees or exiles in France.

Reading a refugee

In Belgium, UNHCR has decorated the tram that runs along the country's coastline until the end of November. A series of tents is depicted on the outside of the tram, with the written message: ''Ýeah, holidaaaaay! Nope, a refugee camp."

UNHCR's office in Strasbourg, meanwhile, will on June 20 open a three-day "living library" in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. This will gather refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people who can be borrowed by the public, like a library book, for a limited period of time, during which the "reader" finds out about their history. A similar event will be organized by UNHCR on June 21 in Nicosia, Cyprus.

Britain will hold its traditional Refugee Week with hundreds of events planned around the country. There will be a Celebrating Sanctuary Festival beside the River Thames in London, where a UNHCR tent will be pitched. On June 20, as part of a Simple Acts campaign, Home Secretary Theresa May will invite a group of refugees to afternoon tea.

Sweden's largest and busiest railway station – Stockholm Central will host a large live event. There will be a miniature refugee camp built from tent-shaped cards, and a big UNHCR tent inside the station. TV monitors will show UNHCR films and messages.

UNHCR's Athens office will be staging a multicultural event that will bring together young Greek people and refugees and help to spread awareness about the forcibly displaced and understanding for their plight in a country where racism and xenophobia are problems. Special guests will include UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador George Dalaras and prizes will be awarded to a UNHCR-run contest on social integration and the promotion of coexistence.

See more on UNCHR activites in Western-Europe on these websites: UNHCR in Western Europe:



Refugees in numbers:

    • Around the world today there are 43.3 million forcibly displaced people. Of these, 27.1 million are internally displaced (IDP) and 15.6 million are refugees.
    • Afghanistan is the leading country of origin for refugees. 2.9 million Afghans live in 71 countries as refugees. Most of them live in Pakistan or Iran.
    • Four out of five refugees are settled in developing countries. 16 % of the refugees are settled in Europe.
    • Pakistan has takes in the highest number of refugees in the world: 1.7 million.
    • Colombia is the county in the word with the most internally displaced people: 3.3 million people.
    • African countries account for 40 % of all IDPs. Conflicts in the Democratic republic of Congo, Sudan and Somalia are crucial factors.


    • Refugee: According to the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951 a refugee is a person who has fled from his or her country because of “well-founded fear of being persecuted”, often for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.
    • Asylum seeker: An asylum seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not been evaluated by the authorities in the country where the person seeks asylum.
    • Migrant: Migrants choose to move for example to improve their future economic prospects. Since they are not forced to move to save their rights or protect their freedom, international law treats them differently.
    • IDP (Internally Displaced People): IDPs have not crossed international boarders, but have moved to find sanctuary within their own country. Even though they flee for similar reasons as refugees, such as armed conflict and human rights violations, they legally remain under the protection of their own government.