Switzerland: UNHCR chief urges communities to welcome refugees

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - As the world celebrates World Refugee Day on Tuesday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has urged communities and countries to welcome refugees and counter narratives that would seek to exclude and marginalise them and other uprooted people.

"(So) on World Refugee Day, when we pause to contemplate the fate of the millions of people who cannot return to their homes tonight because of war or persecution – it’s also a moment to ask ourselves what each of us can do to overcome indifference or fear and embrace the idea of inclusion," he said in a statement.

The UN refugee agency says chefs, muralists, cyclists and even a pop-up orchestra led millions of people around the world in celebratory events to mark World Refugee Day, at a time when the number of men, women and children uprooted by wars and persecution has broken records.

The event, which falls each year on 20 June, salutes the courage and endurance of those who have been forced to flee their homes. Many are also showing they stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s petition.

Mr Grandi said on World Refugee Day, they were honouring the resilience and courage of more than 65 million people who had been forced to flee war, persecution and violence.

However, it was also a moment to recognise those communities and people around the world who received refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their schools, their workplaces and their societies.

"Today we live in a world in which uncertainty often abounds; economic instability, political upheaval and violence close to home can make us want to shut our eyes or close our doors. But fear and exclusion will not lead us to a better place - they can only lead to barriers, alienation and despair. It’s time to change this trajectory. And for the better," he said.

Mr Grandi noted that in countless communities around the world, including in the poorest countries that hosted the vast majority of the world’s refugees, business people, faith communities, teachers, journalists and many more were joining together to provide refuge to the displaced and foster their inclusion in their societies.

"Through UNHCR’s work – often on the front lines of conflict - we witness the courage, tenacity and brilliance of refugees every single day.

"Having lost their homes, their work, and sometimes their families - they don’t give up - they find a way to start again.  Striving to belong, and to contribute, they reach out to their new neighbours, building connections, and creating new opportunities. Given the right environment, our experience is that refugees bring solutions, not problems."

The UNHCR chief said inclusion required "opening our minds, hearts and communities to refugees". It requires a whole of society approach – joining up students, business leaders, athletes, activists, religious leaders, politicians and artists - to share responsibility. And welcoming refugees cannot be at the expense of helping others, but should broaden support to all who need a hand.

He said there were outstanding examples of this in villages, towns and cities in countries on every continent. "In big and small ways, communities around the world are standing together #WithRefugees – recognising that when people work together, everyone wins."

UNHCR said in a report published on Monday that war, violence and persecution worldwide were causing more people than ever to be forcibly displaced.

UNHCR’s new "Global Trends" report, the organization’s major annual survey of the state of displacement, says that at the end of 2016 there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide – some 300,000 more than a year earlier. This total represents an enormous number of people needing protection worldwide.

The figure of 65.6 million comprises three important components, UNHCR said in a press statement.

First is refugee numbers, which at 22.5 million are the highest ever seen. Of these, 17.2 million come under the responsibility of UNHCR, and the remainder are Palestinian refugees registered with our sister-organization UNRWA.

Syria’s conflict remains the world’s biggest producer of refugees (5.5 million). However, in 2016 the biggest new factor was South Sudan where the disastrous breakdown of peace efforts in July of that year contributed to the outflow of 739,900 people by year’s end (1.87 million today).

UNHCR said second is displacement of people inside their own countries, whose numbers were 40.3 million at the end of 2016 compared to 40.8 million a year earlier. Syria, Iraq, and the still very significant displacement inside Colombia were the biggest internal displacement situations, nonetheless the problem of internal displacement is a worldwide one and accounts for almost two thirds of the global forced displacement total.

Third is asylum seekers, people who have fled their country and are seeking international protection as refugees. As of the end of 2016 the number of people seeking asylum globally was 2.8 million.

It said this adds up to an immense human cost of war and persecution globally: 65.6 million means that on average one in every 113 people worldwide is today someone who is displaced – a population bigger than that of the world’s 21st most populous country, the United Kingdom.
-0- PANA MA 20June2017

20 june 2017 11:45:37

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