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On World Refugee Day, UNHCR says refugees deserve praise for resilience and courage

Date of Publication: 
20 June 2017

Filippo Grandi calls on all people to overcome indifference or fear and embrace inclusion and welcome refugees

On World Refugee Day, UNHCR says refugees deserve praise for resilience and courage

20 June 2017

In a statement marking today's World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, has said refugees deserve praise for their resilience and courage.

"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," Grandi said.

Grandi called on all people to "ask ourselves what each of us can do to overcome indifference or fear and embrace the idea of inclusion, to welcome refugees to our own communities, and to counter narratives that would seek to exclude and marginalize refugees and other uprooted people."

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also praised the courage of refugees and called today for the international community to show "support and solidarity". Guterres said refugees "never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world … They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity."

Yesterday, UNHCR released its 2016 Global Trends report, which found war, violence and persecution worldwide are causing more people than ever to be forcibly displaced.

You can read the report online here.

The report says that the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million in 2016, and it remains at a record high. Syrians continued to be the largest forcibly displaced population, with 12 million displaced at the end of 2016.

The number of refugees at the end of 2016 stood at 22.5 million, the highest number ever recorded. The vast majority of those refugees (84%) are hosted by low- or middle-income countries.

UNHCR says there were 2 million new asylum claims made during the year: "With 722,400 such claims, Germany was the world's largest recipient of new individual applications, followed by the United States of America (262,000), Italy (123,000), and Turkey (78,600)." 75,000 asylum claims were received from unaccompanied children, though UNHCR notes this is likely to underestimate the true figure.

Noting that the worldwide population of displaced is now greater than that of the UK, Filippo Grandi said: "By any measure this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises, and ensuring together that the world's refugees, internally displaced and asylum seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued. We have to do better for these people. For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear."

In response to the UNHCR report, Dr Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: "The UNHCR’s report makes for difficult reading. With more people having to flee their homes than ever before, it is clear that there needs to be a better global response to support those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.

"Urgent action is needed. We need to see all countries working together to ensure that refugees are offered safe, legal escape routes and the chance to build new lives elsewhere. Too much of the time it is left to developing countries to step in and host refugees; we need to remember that this global emergency warrants a global response, and the responsibility to provide shelter to those in need should not just lie with some of the world’s poorest countries."