UN: UNHCR welcomes announcement of refugees' team for Rio Olympics

New York, US (PANA) - The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has welcomed Friday's
announcement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the refugees who
will compete as a team in the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,

The team includes two Syrian swimmers, two judokas from the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC), and six runners from Ethiopia and South Sudan.

The UNHCR in a statement, obtained by PANA in New York, noted that all of
the members of the team have fled violence and persecution in their countries
and sought refuge in places as wide-ranging as Belgium, Germany,
Luxembourg, Kenya and Brazil.

The statement quoted UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi,
as saying: "We are very inspired by the Refugee Olympic Athletes team,
having had their sporting careers interrupted, these high-level refugee
athletes will finally have the chance to pursue their dreams."

"Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and
perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better
future for themselves and their families. UNHCR stands with them and with
all refugees," he stated.

He stressed that the initiative came at a time when more people than ever
are being forced by conflict and persecution into fleeing their homes,
underscoring that the global population of refugees, internally displaced
people and asylum seekers reached a record 59.5 million at the end of
2014 and has continued rising since.

"The initiative to send a refugee team to the Rio Games is unprecedented
and sends a strong message of support and hope for refugees worldwide,"
Mr. Grandi said.

UNHCR chief also said that the participation of a refugee team in the
Olympics represents a major milestone in its long-standing partnership
with the IOC.

"This relationship, which dates back 20 years, has been instrumental in
promoting the role of sports in the development and well-being of
refugees, particularly children, all over the world," he said.

In addition, UNHCR noted that, through joint projects, the organizations
have supported youth programmes and sporting activities in at least 20
countries, rehabilitated sporting fields in several refugee camps, and
provided sports kits to refugee youth.

The announcement of the refugee team coincided with the launch of
UNHCR’s #WithRefugees campaign, which is an integral element of the
UNHCR-IOC partnership for the 2016 Rio Games.

The cornerstone of the campaign is a petition asking governments to
ensure that every refugee child gets an education, that every refugee
family has somewhere safe to live, and that every refugee can work or
learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.

UNHCR said the petition will be handed in before the UN Summit on
Refugees and Migrants, scheduled for 19 September in New York.
-0-  PANA  AA 3June2016

03 june 2016 22:16:45

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