Group of people wait by the side of the street.

Messages for 2020

Secretary-General's Message


The COVID-19 pandemic is a sharp reminder of how we are all intimately connected -- to each other and to nature.

Nearly 80 million women, children, and men around the world have been forced from their homes as refugees or internally displaced people. Even more shocking: ten million of these people fled in the past year alone.

On World Refugee Day, we pledge to do everything in our power to end the conflict and persecution that drive these appalling numbers.

Today, we also recognize the generosity and humanity of host communities and countries that often struggle with their own economic and security concerns. We owe these countries our thanks, our support and our investment.

We must all work to re-establish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, and to implement the pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum, so that refugees and host communities receive the support they need.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic poses an additional threat to refugees and displaced people, who are among the most vulnerable. My recent Policy Brief on COVID-19 and People on the Move called on governments to ensure that they are included in all response and recovery efforts.

Refugees and displaced people are also prominent among those who are stepping up to make a difference on the frontlines of the response.

From camps in Bangladesh to hospitals in Europe, refugees are working as nurses, doctors, scientists, teachers and in other essential roles, protecting themselves and giving back to the communities that host them.

On World Refugee Day, we thank refugees for their resourcefulness and determination to rebuild their own lives, and to improve the lives of those around them.

Today and every day, we stand in unity and solidarity with refugees and recognize our fundamental obligation to shelter those fleeing war and persecution.

António Guterres

António Guterres

General Assembly President's Message

On World Refugee Day we hold the 25.9 million refugees of the world in our thoughts. Refugees around the world have made treacherous journeys in pursuit of peace, prosperity, and the full enjoyment of basic human rights.

          Life has become even more difficult for refugees as the world contends with the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions have prevented refugees from moving through transit countries. In camp communities, transmission prevention measures are difficult to implement. Space is often at a premium, making physical social distancing impossible. Moreover, access to hand-washing facilities and health services may be limited; and personal protective equipment, if available, may be in short supply.

          I commend host countries for upholding the values of the Charter of the United Nations, in providing for the people we serve in the context of an unprecedented global challenge.

          More than 134 host countries are reporting local transmission of COVID-19, and are working hard to mitigate the effects of a global health pandemic on the vulnerable group they host. Indeed, more than 80% of the world’s refugees are hosted in low and middle-income countries, where tenuous health systems are already under strain.

          I urge all Member States to listen to, and heed, the voices of refugees and displaced persons as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health of every person is tied to the health of those furthest behind.

          On World Refugee Day, I thank the UNHCR, IOM and all humanitarian workers who have dedicated their life’s work to creating a better world for all. I commend the WHO for its continued leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

           Today I pay tribute to the courage and resilience of refugees everywhere. Your journey has not been easy; you have experienced hardship and encountered difficulties. Yet, you have persisted in pursuit of a future which is free from fear, and full of possibility. We share your dreams of a better world for your children. Do not lose hope.

          We will leave no one behind. Together, we will build back better for a brighter future.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande