Today, 20 June is World Refugee Day, and across the globe, in the 116 countries where UNHCR works, staff, refugees and humanitarian partners are involved in a huge range of activities to mark the occasion including experiencing refugee life in a UNHCR tent – that’s happening right outside on the Place des Nations here in Geneva from 9am – 4pm – bridge lighting, sports events, concerts, photo exhibitions and film festivals.
Refugees show incredible courage and perseverance and this year’s overall theme of ‘Protection’ is a reflection of the need and right to protection that refugees deserve.
To show his solidarity with the millions of refugees and displaced, and pay tribute to all those humanitarians who help them, High Commissioner António Guterres is on a three-day mission in Kenya seeing first hand the situation displaced Kenyans and of Somali refugees uprooted from their war-ravaged country. He described Somalia as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and urged the international community to make peace in Somalia a priority. He acknowledged that UNHCR had to do more to help those uprooted by the 17-year conflict and has had meetings with the UN country team on the issue today. According to UNHCR’s global statistics for 2007, released Tuesday, Somalis were the fifth largest group of refugees and sixth largest group of internally displaced people under UNHCR’s care worldwide. The new statistics showed globally there were 11.4 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally by conflict or persecution at the end of 2007.
On Thursday, the eve of World Refugee Day, the High Commissioner visited Kenyans in the Rift Valley displaced by post-election violence. While more than 195,000 displaced Kenyans had returned home, according to Kenyan officials, there were still 43,000 in camps around in the country. In Naivasha, where there are two camps, Mr Guterres told the displaced that a camp should only be a short-term solution and his biggest wish is that they should be able to return home soon in safety and dignity.
And, today, on the final leg of his visit, he is in Nairobi to join in World Refugee Day celebrations.
For all those interested in further details about how World Refugee Day is being celebrated around the world go to UNHCR’s website http://www.unhcr.org