This year, the UN Refugee Agency marked World Refugee Day on 20 June with the launch of its #WithRefugees petition, urging governments to work together to aid refugees around the world.
The petition will be delivered at the UN Summit on Migrants and Refugees on 19 September and will ask governments to further support refugees in various ways: to ensure every refugee child receives an education, ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live, and ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills in order to contribute positively to their community.
In collaboration with Shared_Studio, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) hosted the Zaatari Portal dialogue on 20 June at the UN headquarters in New York City. The event allowed viewers to connect with individuals around the world and also featured the “Refugees Exhibit,” a multimedia showcase.
For the first time in United Nations history, the number of refugees has exceeded 60 million, reaching an unprecedented total of 65 million displaced people across the globe.
"Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere,” Ban Ki-moon said.
The well-being of refugees is an issue that has recently touched many countries, communities and families worldwide. From the Middle East to the Mediterranean to Africa, contemporary warfare and ongoing terrorism have caused millions of people to flee their homes, with many not able to make the treacherous journey to safer area.
Within one week in May, at least 880 people died in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, bringing the total number of fatalities along this route to 2,510 this year. According to the UN Refugee Agency, 1855 people died on this route in the same period in 2015, and 57 people in the first five months of 2014. In total, 203,981 refugees and migrants have travelled this route in 2016.
"The stories which I have personally heard from children making this journey are horrifying. No child should face them. Their lives are in the hands of smugglers who care for nothing other than the money they exhort from them," said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF special coordinator for the European Refugee and Migrant Crisis.
Italy UNICEF and Libya are planning an operation with the Italian government to provide protection to children who are crossing this route. According to the UN Refugee Agency, many of these children are unaccompanied adolescents facing abuse, exploitation and the possibility of death.
Tens of thousands of people in southeast Niger have also fled their homes due to attacks by the terror group Boko Haram. Violence has permeated the town of Bosso in recent weeks, including an attack on the nearby town of Yebi on 31 May that killed nine people and forced out approximately 15,000 residents, with displaced civilians seeking out shelter in Bosso.
Although more progress must be made to continually protect and support refugees and migrants across the globe, United Nations agencies have begun to help South Sudanese refugees, who face a serious food crisis, become self-sustainable.
The UNHCR and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have contributed 186 tons of crop seeds, vegetable seeds, hand tools and fishing kits to 200,000 refugees across South Sudan, including Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria.
“We are pleased to announce that these interventions are working well, but we are also looking beyond quick-fix solutions that help refugees become more self-reliant and less dependent on humanitarian assistance in the long run,” said Ahmed Warsame, UNHCR Representative.
According to research and assessments, the food and nutrition security situation is troubling in several parts of the country, particularly the Upper Nile, which has the country’s largest refugee population of 134,000.
“Without seed distributions we cannot survive. Not all of us are able to keep seeds for next year, some people do, but because of lack of food, sometimes we are forced to eat the seeds kept for planting,” said a Sudanese refugee from Blue Nile state. “We hope for peace so that we can return home, where we can be free.”
World Refugee Day
Read more from the UN News Centre:
UN children's agency 'alarmed' at refugee and migrant deaths in the Mediterranean
Looking beyond 'quick-fix' solutions, UN agencies help South Sudan refugees become self-sufficient
Thousands continue to flee Boko Haram attacks on Niger town – UN refugee agency
'Unprecedented' 65 million people displaced by war and persecution in 2015 – UN