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WORLD REFUGEE DAY 20th JUNE

ONE REFUGEE IS TOO MANY – IN A MINUTE A FAMILY CAN LOSE EVERYTHING

World Refugee Day is a special day when the world takes time to recognize the resilience of forcibly displaced people throughout the world. The 20th June is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. Each year on this special day the United Nations, United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and countless civic groups around the world celebrate World Refugee Day in order to draw the public’s attention to the millions of refugees and Internally displaced persons worldwide who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

For World Refugee Day 2014 the UNHCR will continue with the global “1 Campaign”, keeping with the theme: 1 family torn apart by war is too many” – Nearly 9 million Syrians have had to flee their homes – Nearly half of all refugees are children. – 40% of child refugees are under the age of 11. Mbera, Mauritania (Joe Penney/Reuters) On 4 December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 decided that, from 2001, 20 June 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. African Refugee Day had been formally celebrated in several countries prior to 2000.

The UN noted that the Organization of African Unity (OAU) had agreed to have International Refugee Day coincide with Africa Refugee Day on 20 June. The refugee is an involuntary migrant, a victim of politics, war, or natural catastrophe. Every refugee is naturally a migrant, but not every migrant is a refugee. A refugee movement results when the tensions leading to migration are so acute that what at first seemed to be a voluntary movement becomes virtually compulsory. The uprooted become either internal refugees, that is, “national refugees” (persons who have been displaced in their own country), or “international refugees” (persons outside their country of origin). The latter are designated refugees in legal terminology when they lack the diplomatic protection granted to nationals abroad. There are no generally accepted criteria to determine when a refugee ceases to be a refugee. Proposed criteria include: when the refugee is earning a living and has found a permanent place to live; when he has acquired a new nationality and has obtained equal rights with the inhabitants of the country of asylum or resettlement; and both criteria together.

You can tell a lot about a country by how it treats refugees – those poor souls who fled the land of their birth to become foreigners in a country where they knew no one, and didn’t even know how they would make ends meet once they got there. These are people who are homeless and stateless and who live in a condition of constant insecurity which erodes human dignity. Often all they carry with them when they cross borders is hope. There might be fear, but it is hope that drives them elsewhere. We, too, once lived in a time where many of our leaders knew it was better to live elsewhere as refugees than to live in fear at home. We must reject racism, tribalism, xenophobia and all ideas that suggest one human is worth less than another.

Planting the seeds of tolerance in South Africa through soccer: Sport can be a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and community networks, and promote ideals of peace, solidarity, non-violence, tolerance and justice. With xenophobia being a major challenge in South Africa, UNHCR, with the support of Ninemillion.org, saw soccer as a means to promote tolerance between refugees and their host communities. [By Tina Ghelli, in Pretoria] The main needs of the refugees are access to documentation, a fair and functioning asylum system, and to basic social services, as provided for in national legislation and policy, as well as periodic emergency assistance for the most vulnerable, including shelter and food. Education has the power to transform lives.

For many, poverty and conflict get in the way of a proper education. Xenophobia-prevention programmes are compulsory and should include awareness and conflict resolution programmes, as well as other community interventions aimed at promoting social cohesion. © UNHCR/Linh Dang South African NGO Lesidi La Batho is helping to build understanding between refugees and the local community. References: Khaya Dlanga – The Star Africa, www.unhcr.org, www.rsaborders.co.za, www.home-affairs.gov.za, www.encnclopedia.com By Indrani Naidoo Department : International Education and Partnerships, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa.