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World Refugee Day and Refugee Week

World Refugee Day

On the occasion of 50th anniversary of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched an annual World Refugee Day. The General Assembly unanimously adopted on 4th December 2000 the resolution to have World Refugee Day on 20th June.

For years, many countries and regions had been holding their own Refugee Days and even Refugee Weeks. One of the most widespread is Africa Refugee Day, which is celebrated on 20 June in several countries. As an expression of solidarity with Africa, which hosts the most refugees, and which traditionally has shown them great generosity, a special UN General Assembly Resolution was unanimously adopted in 2000 which designated 20 June every year as World Refugee Day.

The first international celebration of World Refugee Day was held in 2001. UNHCR paid tribute to Refugee Women in 2002, to Refugee Youth the following year, putting the spotlight on their needs, their potential and their drive to create a better future for themselves and their communities. In 2004 the selected theme was the search for, and implementation of, durable solutions for refugees. Every year World Refugee Day highlights the courage of refugees.

The UNHCR explains:

“Refugees are ordinary people, too, except that through no fault of their own, they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. As such, they are often required to dig deep into their own inner sources of strength…”

“It takes courage to be a refugee. Courage not to give up hope and to make the most of the hand that has been dealt. Courage to start a new life against daunting odds, eventually to become contributing and enriching members of society once more.”

Refugee Week in the UK

Refugee Week is a UK wide series of events and activities that celebrate the great contribution made by refugees to UK life and seek to promote a better understanding of why people become refugees.

Refugee Week is timed to coincide with World Refugee Day so as to build on the momentum created by that international recognition of refugees – however it is an independent celebration of refugees in its own right – and with a focus on the UK situation. Every year hundreds of arts, cultural and educational events are organised across the UK.

Refugee Week takes place every year in June during the same week as World Refugee Day. The main focus of Refugee Week activities in 2009 is the Simple Acts Campaign, which is about inspiring people to use small, everyday actions to change perceptions of refugees.

See the main website below for full listings of events across the UK, information specifically targeted for schools and those aged 16–24, and for promotional materials:

Web Resources

Selected web-based information resources (for more, search the FMO website)

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creative commons logo (CC) BY-NC-ND This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Photograph of refugees carrying plastic jerry cans heading out to collect water for their daily needs.

Refugees carrying plastic jerry cans head out to the water tap to collect water for their daily needs at Touloum camp, Chad.

© UNHCR/H.Caux

Last updated Sep 06, 2011