Today, 20 June, marks World Refugee Day 2019; an annual international day for recognising the plight of the world’s 70.8 million forcibly displaced people.
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, issued a video message to the world’s refugees to mark the occasion, saying: “I am continually deeply moved by your stories and inspired by your hope; so on this World Refugee Day – and also every day – my colleagues and I pledge to do all we can to help you, not just to get by, but also to thrive. Even though there are more people like you who have been forcibly displaced than ever before – over 70 million – we have developed better ways to mobilise the world to support you. Is it enough? No. There are still far too few resettlement places for refugees who need them; funding levels are too low; some countries are introducing restrictions that are hurting your access to asylum. Boats are hindered from rescuing drowning refugees. Peace talks are slow to bear fruit. But many generous countries and communities are still welcoming places…Voices of humanity are holding their ground. And so, on this World Refugee Day, we must have hope.”
A report issued by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to coincide with World Refugee Day 2019 noted that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has risen consistently over the last 10 years, reaching a record high of 70.8 million by the end of 2018. Just over two thirds of the world’s refugees came from five countries – Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia – while Venezuela saw the highest increase in refugees and asylum seekers leaving the country. Turkey hosted the highest number of refugees – 3.7 million – for the fifth consecutive year; while Lebanon hosted the largest number relative to its overall population, with refugees accounting for one in six Lebanese residents.
A joint statement released by the European Commission and the High Representative to mark World Refugee Day 2019 said: “Europe is and will remain a safe haven for those in need of international protection. Since 2015, EU Member States granted protection to more than 1.9 million people. As the leading global aid donor, the EU allocates 80% of its humanitarian assistance to help forcibly displaced people and their host communities in over 40 countries. This goes hand in hand with development assistance as well as with our work on conflict prevention, strengthening of the rule of law and fostering early warning and prevention measures.”
The UNHCR has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the distance travelled by refugees and other displaced people. The #StepWithRefugees challenge calls on people around the world to walk a collective total of two billion kilometres, the distance collectively covered by refugees worldwide every year, over 12 months.
The Commission’s joint statement continued: “As long as refugees lose their lives trying to reach a safe place, our work must continue. We will continue protecting the human rights of refugees inside and outside Europe and work with partner countries and international organisations to establish more safe and legal pathways for those in need of protection. Since 2015, two successful EU resettlement programmes have helped almost 60,000 of the most vulnerable persons in need of international protection find shelter in the EU. This work must continue.”