World Refugee Day, acknowledged on the 20th of June, is a powerful reminder of the millions of people displaced by war, conflict, and persecution worldwide.
As we commemorate this day, we all need to understand the plight of refugees and their contributions to our society.
It’s essential we all look to find ways to raise awareness and seek out factual resources that help us understand the experiences of refugees in our local and national communities and what we can do to support them.
What is World Refugee Day?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) global trends report shows that 70.8 million people worldwide have been displaced by war, conflict, and persecution. Sadly,t children make up half this number.
On 4 December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to mark World Refugee Day on 20 June each year.
This day would be used to:
- Raise awareness of the plight of refugees seeking refuge globally.
- Send a message to governments to work together to support refugees in their countries.
- Commemorate the strength, courage, resilience and perseverance of refugees.
New Zealand’s Commitment to Refugees
Since the 1840s, New Zealand has welcomed refugees with open arms, demonstrating its commitment to protecting and supporting those seeking safety.
Adhering to international conventions such as the 1951 United Nations Convention, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1984 Convention Against Torture, and the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New Zealand is committed to dignity and respect for all.
Over the years, refugees from Denmark, Poland, Uganda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and the Middle East have found sanctuary in New Zealand.
The Refugee Quota Programme
To further extend its support, New Zealand implemented the Refugee Quota Programme. In 1987, the country began accepting 800 refugees classified by the UNHCR.
By 2018, the annual refugee quota had increased to 1000 individuals. As of July 2020, New Zealand expanded its commitment, allowing up to 1500 refugees to settle here.
This program reflects the country’s dedication to providing a safe haven for those in need.
4 Ways to Grow Your Understanding and Taking Action
Unfortunately, there are too often a lot of misconceptions, misrepresentations and false news surrounding refugees and their place in the world. This can lead to bias, stereotypes and marginalisation of these groups who have already experienced significant trauma.
World Refugee Day is a vital opportunity to grow our understanding, dispel misconceptions and address our unconscious bias to better support, advocate for and involve refugees in our communities.
Here are four ways to get started:
- Volunteer with Local Refugee Organizations: Contact refugee support groups, resettlement agencies, or community centres that serve refugees in your area. Volunteer opportunities may include language tutoring, cultural exchange programs, mentorship programs for refugee youth, or assisting with fundraising and awareness campaigns.
- Organise Awareness Events: Take the initiative to raise awareness about refugee issues by organising events in their schools, communities, or online platforms. These events can include film screenings, panel discussions, art exhibitions, or cultural festivals that celebrate the diversity and resilience of refugees. Collaborate with local schools, community centres, or refugee organisations to gather information, stories, and personal experiences to share during these events.
- Fundraising Campaigns: Launch fundraising campaigns to support organisations working with refugees or directly assisting refugee families. You can organise events like bake sales, charity runs, or crowdfunding campaigns to raise funds for specific refugee programs, educational scholarships, or essential resources. Research local and international organisations with a strong track record in refugee support and allocate the funds raised to projects aligned with their missions.
- Advocate for Policy Change: Stay informed about local and national policies related to refugee rights, immigration, and resettlement. Write letters or emails to government officials expressing concerns or support for specific policies and initiatives. Participate in peaceful protests or join youth-led advocacy groups that work toward creating inclusive and welcoming societies for refugees. Social media platforms can also be powerful tools for amplifying voices, sharing stories, and advocating for change.
Remember: Even small actions can create ripples of positive change. By getting involved with World Refugee Day, young people can build a more inclusive and compassionate society for refugees and promote global unity.
Show Your Support All Year Round
World Refugee Day empowers us to embrace humanity, challenge prejudices, and advocate for a more inclusive society.
By celebrating the contributions and resilience of refugees, we can create a world where everyone is valued, supported, and welcomed. Let’s continue to learn from one another and work towards a future where compassion and empathy prevail.
Together, we can make a difference.