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On December 4, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 decided that, from 2001, June 20th would be celebrated as World Refugee Day. In this resolution, the General Assembly noted that 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
According to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached 59.5 million at the end of 2014, the highest level since World War II. Among them are nearly 20 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18, and 1.8 million were asylum-seekers. The rest were persons displaced within their own countries (internally displaced persons). Syrian refugees became the largest refugee group in 2014 (3.9 million, 1.55 million more than the previous year), overtaking Afghan refugees (2.6 million), who had been the largest refugee group for three decades.
Developing countries hosted the largest share of refugees – around 86% by the end of 2014; the least developed countries alone provided asylum to 25% of refugees worldwide. Even though number of Syrian refugees in Europe steadily increased between 2011 and 2015, totaling 813,599 in 37 European countries (57% of them applied for asylum in Germany or Serbia), most of them were hosted by neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The largest single recipient of new asylum seekers worldwide in 2014 was the Russian Federation, with 274,700 asylum requests, 99% of them lodged by Ukrainians fleeing from the war in Donbass; Russia was followed by Germany, the top recipient of asylum applications within the European Union, with 202,645 asylum requests, 20% of them from Syria.
In the Secretary-General’s Message for 2015 Ban Ki-moon said:
“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.”
We need to remember that anyone of us can become a refugee one day.
You can learn more about the refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and stateless persons at official UNHCR data webpage. This page provide regional data about amount of people who lost their home.
Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on June 20, 2016.