Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Keeping the Flame of Hope Alive

MK: 20 June is World Refugee Day

"Throughout their long and daunting journey from oppression and persecution to asylum and protection, and eventually to a place they can call home, refugees show incredible strength, courage and determination. Their journey is a dangerous and arduous one and every day spent in exile is a day too long.

But in every step of their journey refugees carry with them an unshakable, unrelenting hope. By hanging on to their hopes for basic survival, sustenance and protection, and for the chance to one day rebuild their lives, refugees defy all odds. As the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), we continue to be impressed by the tenacious hopefulness of refugees which, in turn, motivates us to leave no stone unturned in the fulfillment of our mandate, to protect them and to find durable solutions to their plight.

On World Refugee Day, we ask you to remember the millions of refugees under our care who are trying to pick up the pieces of once-peaceful lives. As different as they are from each other, one thing connects them all: hope for a better future and a chance to restore lasting peace to their lives.

Help us keep that flame of hope alive!"

While the number of refugees worldwide has reached a quarter-century low, UNHCR's annual tally of uprooted people rose in 2005 to nearly 21 million, with the rise to the refugee agency's expanding role in caring for internally displaced people (IDPs).

UNHCR draws inspiration from the perseverance of the world's estimated 20.8 million people of concern to the agency – including some 8.4 million refugees – and the fact they never give up hope despite losing everything. While global refugee figures had dropped 31 percent since 2001, returnees often still faced a bleak future back home. Greater focus is needed on ensuring countries move forward after conflict. The international community needs to devote much more attention to the transition between relief and development and to rebuilding societies ripped apart by violence so that refugees who go home, can stay home.

As an expression of solidarity with Africa, which hosts the most refugees, and which traditionally has shown them great generosity, the UN General Assembly adopted
Resolution 55/76 on 4 December 2000. In this resolution, the General Assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June. The Assembly therefore decided that, from 2001, 20 June would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. [Note: The OAU was replaced by the African Union on 9 July 2002.]

For more information, please visit: the
United Nations and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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