World Refugee Day marked across Africa as global displacement hits record high

20 Jun 2020

World Refugee Day marked across Africa as global displacement hits record high

World Refugee Day (WRD) is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the world. It falls on June 20 each year and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their habitual places of residence across national boundaries, to escape conflict or persecution. WRD shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, helping to mobilize political will and resources so refugees can not only survive but also thrive.  

The first WRD was held globally on June 20 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as Africa Refugee Day, before the United Nations General Assembly officially designated it as an international day in December 2000.

Each year, WRD is marked by a variety of events across Africa and around the globe in support of refugees. These activities are led by or involve refugees themselves, government officials, host communities, companies, celebrities, school children and the general public, among others.

On WRD the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his message expressed grave concern that nearly 80 million women, children, and men around the world have been forced from their homes as refugees, out of which ten million fled in the past year alone.

SG Guterres also said, “We pledge to do everything in our power to end the conflict and persecution that drive these appalling numbers. Refugees and displaced people are also prominent among those who are stepping up to make a difference on the frontlines of the Covid-19 response. We thank them for their resourcefulness and determination to rebuild their own lives, and to improve the lives of those around them”. 

The AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Minata Samate delivered a statement on behalf of the AUC Chairperson to mark WRD. The African Union called for ‘an integrated approach to support refugees, internally displaced persons, with particular attention to women and girls’ during this period of Covid-19.

The UN SG’s Policy Brief on Covid-19 and People on the Move highlights the additional vulnerability the Covid-19 pandemic poses to forcibly displaced persons including refugees who are among the most vulnerable segment of populations in need of assistance protection and calls on governments to ensure that refugees and internally displaced people are included in all response and recovery efforts.