On World Refugee Day, UN chief appeals for hearts to be open to refugees everywhere

In January 2015, Nyachot displays a handful of maize grains that form part of the food ration she receives in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, where she lives with her four children. Photo: UNHCR/I. Charnetski

20 June 2015 – With one in every 122 human beings a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is marking World Refugee Day by calling urgently on “governments and societies around the world to recommit to providing refuge and safety to those who have lost everything to conflict or persecution.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched a social media campaign urging people to get involved on the Day, marked annually on 20 June, to introduce individual refugees such a Syrian saxophonist in Thailand to an Afghan architect in Greece to give a face to the millions of families who have fled their homes to escape war or human rights abuses.

In his message on the Day, The Secretary-general noted that at the end of 2014, 59.5 million persons, the highest number on record, were forcibly displaced around the globe.

“The ongoing conflict in Syria, as well as crises in Iraq, Ukraine, South Sudan, Central African Republic, north-eastern Nigeria and parts of Pakistan, have led to a staggering growth and acceleration of global forced displacement,” he said.

“In 2014, 42,500 people became refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced every single day, a rate that has quadrupled in only four years,” he said. “At the same time, many long-standing conflicts remained unresolved and the number of refugees who were able to return home last year was the lowest in over three decades.”

The UN chief reminded the world that many of those displaced have had “no choice but to try and reach safety using dangerous means, such as has been demonstrated by the sharp increase in irregular boat movements in the Mediterranean, South-East Asia and elsewhere. “

“At times like these, it is essential that Governments and societies around the world recommit to providing refuge and safety to those who have lost everything to conflict or persecution,” he said.

Saying “refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me,” Mr. Ban said, “on this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.”

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Syria is the world's biggest producer of both internally displaced people (7.6 million) and refugees (3.88 million at the end of 2014). Afghanistan (2.59 million) and Somalia (1.1 million) are the next biggest refugee source countries.

Ahead of the Day, UNHCR released its latest Global Trends: World at War, which revealed that one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, says UNHCR, it would be the world's 24th largest.

“We are witnessing a paradigm change, an unchecked slide into an era in which the scale of global forced displacement as well as the response required is now clearly dwarfing anything seen before,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres declared in a press release issued Thursday on the report's release.

“It is terrifying that on the one hand there is more and more impunity for those starting conflicts, and on the other there is seeming utter inability of the international community to work together to stop wars and build and preserve peace,” he added.

“With huge shortages of funding and wide gaps in the global regime for protecting victims of war, people in need of compassion, aid and refuge are being abandoned,” Mr. Guterres continued.

“For an age of unprecedented mass displacement, we need an unprecedented humanitarian response and a renewed global commitment to tolerance and protection for people fleeing conflict and persecution.”


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