World Refugee Day

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 20 June 2012

Today we commemorate World Refugee Day, which sees the United Nations Refugee Agency co-ordinating a series of events to raise awareness of the plight of refugees worldwide. The celebrations are a timely reminder of the bravery and sacrifices of millions of displaced people across the globe.

For years individual countries held their own days, and even weeks, in recognition of those forced to flee conflicts and crackdowns. Indeed, Africa Refugee Day is still celebrated today, on June 20, in several nations on the continent. But in 2000 the UN General Assembly, noting the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention was on the horizon, adopted a resolution stating that June 20 would be known as World Refugee Day.

“Refugees have no choice. You do”. That’s the theme for this year’s event. Refugees living in all corners of the globe consistently encounter some of the toughest choices imaginable – such as whether to stay where they are and face rape, torture or death or leave behind their family and everything they know to embark on a dangerous – and all too often fatal – journey into the unknown. Eight people every minute leave everything in order to flee war, persecution or terror.

Despite ongoing economic uncertainty, we must never shy away from the truly vulnerable. Refugees leave because they have no option – it’s up to us to choose to help.

Since Britain became a signatory of the 1951 Convention, scores of refugees have made this country their home, built themselves a whole new life and made real contributions to our society. We should never lose our fine tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need.

The rights and freedoms Liberty campaigns to protect in Britain belong to everyone – whether they’re immigrants, those seeking refuge or British citizens. But in recent years some policies have undermined such basic rights. So particularly today, on World Refugee Day, we must remember our history as a safe haven for the persecuted – and make sure it stays that way. Racism and xenophobia have no place in modern Britain, and the importance of refugee protection – regardless of debates and disagreements over immigration – must never be lost.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson

Policy and Advocacy Manager