Every year, 20 June is World Refugee Day. This year, the theme of World Refugee Day is the right of every person to find refuge. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for refugees, reminded the importance of this date:
World Refugee Day is intended to be a celebration of the human spirit and of the fortitude of the millions of people who, despite being displaced and dispossessed, relentlessly strive to improve their lives and those of their families and communities. Leaders can work together to make peace and resolve the plight of those who have been displaced with lasting and humane solutions.
World Refugee Day is an international day established by the United Nations to honour refugees around the world. It was first celebrated globally on 20 June 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It was originally known as African Refugee Day, before the United Nations General Assembly officially declared it an international day in December 2000. The move from African Refugee Day to World Refugee Day reflects a greater international awareness of the refugee cause and the fact that the refugee cause affects us all.
The day is a chance to celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee because of conflict or persecution and is an opportunity to show empathy and understanding for their plight, and to recognise their resilience as they seek to rebuild their lives.
Whoever they are, people forced to flee must be treated with dignity. Anyone can seek safety, regardless of who they are or what they believe. This is non-negotiable: seeking safety is a fundamental right.
Wherever they come from, people forced to flee must be welcomed. Refugees come from all over the world. They may seek safety by plane, boat or on foot. What remains universal is the right to shelter.
Whenever people are forced to flee, they have the right to be protected. Whatever the threat - war, violence, persecution - everyone deserves to be protected. Everyone has the right to be safe.
Seeking asylum is a human right enshrined in international law through the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
On World Refugee Day - and every day - Switzerland for UNHCR calls for these universal principles to be respected around the world - for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
Seeking asylum is a fundamental right. Anyone forced to flee persecution, conflict or violations of their fundamental rights has the right to seek protection in another country.
Borders must remain open to anyone forced to flee. Restricting access and closing borders can make the journey of people seeking safety even more dangerous.
No country can force a person to return to their country if their life or freedom is threatened. Thus, countries should not turn back any person without first assessing the dangers they face in their country.
No one should be discriminated against when presenting themselves at a border. All claims for refugee status must be given a fair hearing, regardless of factors such as race, religion, gender and country of origin.
Anyone forced to flee their home must be treated with respect and dignity. They have the right to safe and dignified treatment like any other human being. This includes keeping families together, protecting people from human trafficking and avoiding arbitrary detention.
Regardless of how a person flees or reaches safety, seeking asylum is not illegal.