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World Refugee Day 2020: History, Themes and Famous Quotes

World Refugee Day is a worldwide event to honor the strength, courage, and determination of those people (including men, women, and children) that has to flee their homeland. There may be various reasons like conflict, violence, persecution, etc. that forced these people to escape from their homes.

world refugee day 2020

When World Refugee Day Came Into Existence?

The day was marked the first time in 2001. Before this, many countries used to hold their own Refugee Days. Among all these, the African Refugee Day was quite popular, which used to get celebrated on 20th June in various countries. 

Later on, the United States General Assembly on 4th December 2000 adopted resolution 55/76. As per this resolution, 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees. In support of this resolution, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) also had agreed to hold International Refugee Day associated with African Refugee Day, i.e., on 20th June.

Eventually, it was decided by U.N. General Assembly that 20th June will be celebrated as World Refugee Day every year to raise awareness about the solidarity and protection of the refugees.   

World Refugee Day History

We celebrate World Refugee Day on 20th June every year since 2001 with a mindset that “Migration is not a crime.” The day was started by the UNHCR (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) as #WithRefugees petition. It was started with a motive to send a message of action, responsibility, and human dignity on behalf of refugees to governments across the globe.      

World Refugee Day 2001-2005

2001 was the commencement of the event celebration in an international platform in coordination with UNHCR. Various activities were organized to celebrate the day in different countries such as Albania, Algeria, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cana, China, Colombia, etc. and many more. 

Next year in 2002, a special tribute was given to the refugee women for their courage and determination. To support and protect refugee women five actions were planned by UNHCR that includes-

  1. Training of refugee women to involve them in refugee community management.
  2. To make them register individually for security & access services.
  3. Implementation of strategies to prevent gender-based and sexual violence.
  4. To ensure that refugee women will participate in mgmt. & distribution of food and other necessities.
  5. A provision of sanitary material to all refugee females.   

In 2003, Coca Cola sponsored the day in the Republic of Moldova. The proceeds of the event were sent to CCR (Charity Centre for Refugees), which is a partner organization of UNHCR. 

CCR and UNHCR organized a friendly sports competition on World Refugee Day 2003. This competition was held for Moldovan and refugee children from Russian-Ukrainian school to celebrate the day dedicated to refugee youths. 

In 2004, UNHCR arranged an outing on 25th June at a recreational park/beach in Jakarta in cooperation with its partners Yayasan Pulih and Palang Merah from Indonesia.

Approximately 120 refugees participated in this outing. Men participated in different sports, like soccer, volleyball, etc. Whereas women took part in the cooking competition, and children were involved in coloring and running competitions.

In 2005, a message was given by U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterrese addressing the success of UNHCR throughout the years since its beginning. 

World Refugee Day 2006-2010

In 2006, a poster was released by UNHCR, giving 19 million refugees a reason to hope. A hope that they never, ever, have to run again. A belief that they can build a better future here.

2007 was the 7th year of the World Refugee Day celebration. This year East Sudan and Juba/South Sudan celebrated the day with two themes- “A New Beginning” for South Sudan and Blue Nile state and “Diversity-Tolerance-Respect” for the rest of the country.

In East Sudan, the day was celebrated with an environmental activity of planting 90 trees in different refugee camps throughout the region.

On the other hand, in South Sudan, various activities like dancing, music, poetry contest, sports, etc. were held to celebrate the day. 

In 2008, UNHCR organized a wide range of activities with its partners to celebrate World Refugee Day. These activities included light shows, film festivals, panel discussions, fashion shows, sports competitions, photography exhibitions, lectures, food bazaars, concerts, etc.  

In 2009, towards the celebration of this international event, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres calls upon the people worldwide to recognize millions of victims of the quarrels not as a burden but as a potential gift. 

In 2010, UNHCR launched its most ambitious program as the celebration of the day; This was the first time when New York’s Iconic Empire State Building spotlighted in UNHCR blue from sunset on World Refugee Day to show respect and solidarity for refugees.

World Refugee Day 2011-2015

In 2011, UNHCR plan to experience the lives of refugees on this day. A walkathon was organized at K.L. Sentral Station on 18th, and 19th June 2011 from 9 am to 4 pm. to celebrate the day.

In 2012, millions of people around the world organized several events and programs to pay tribute to refugees. This World Refugee Day, Angelina Jolie donated US$100,000 for UNHCR’s work for helping Syrian refugees.

In 2013, to observe the day, UNHCR presented a multimedia artwork, sanctuary, and sustenance. It was the story of many journeys by the Chicago-based group ARTWORKS project for Human Rights.  

In 2014, a peace run for the refugees in Kenya’s Kakuma Camp was held to mark World Refugee Day this year. Apart from this, many other events were organized as UNHCR reported that the number of refugees was higher than it had ever been observed since the end of World War II.   

In 2015, the day took place against the backdrop of worsening the crisis worldwide. UNHCR lead urges higher international action to end conflicts as counts of forcibly displaced people are becoming quite huge. 

World Refugee Day 2016-2018

In 2016, to celebrate the day, UNHCR brought together around 130 key stakeholders from Govt. private sector, trade associations, academia, civil society, and multimedia organizations to discuss perspectives on the problems related to lawful labor schemes for forcibly displaced in Malaysia. 

In 2017, various events were organized worldwide in coordination with UNHCR. For example- 

  1. Washington D.C., USA- Singer Thao Nguyen, gave a free concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
  2. Mangaize Camp, Niger- Malian refugees sung & danced at Mangaize refugee camp, Niger. 
  3. Cairo, Egypt- A “Refugees Hot Talent” contest was organized in Egypt to mark the day, and many other events across the world took place.

The screening of the documentary film “Human Flow” was hosted at the Cultural Center “Cinema Kyiv” on Word Refugee Day 2018. UNHCR held this event, where Chinese contemporary artist and refugee activist Ai Wei Wei made the film quite successful. This movie was filmed in 23 countries and around 40 refugee camps worldwide.

World Refugee Day 2019

The world joined the celebrations of the day, organizing various events at different places. For example-

  1. Geneva organized dance parties and food festivals.
  2. In Argentina, a special free concert was organized in Buenos Aires by Latin Vox Machine, which is an orchestra of 100 Latin American musicians.
  3. Azerbaijani, UNHCR held an event in coordination with the Govt. of Azerbaijani to support World Refugee Day. In this event, the famous piano player ‘Isfar Sarabski’ gave a musical performance and many more events across the world. 
Also, Check in detail about World refugee day 2019 here


World Refugee Day 2020

We are just a few days away from World Refugee Day 2020. The event will be celebrated on the same day, i.e., 20th June. As it is an international event hence, many countries will take part in celebrations.

Various communities, individuals, faith groups, and schools, etc. will contribute to making the day successful like previous years. All your steps, whether it’s a big or small step, will be counted in solidarity with refugees.

UNHCR will conduct numerous events and activities in different parts of the planet to go one step forward for the protection of refugees. You can look for any online or offline event in your city to be a part of this international event.

The theme of world refugee day 2020 will focus on raising worldwide awareness of global responsibility for refugees.

World Refugee Day Themes

The event is celebrated every year with a particular theme to boost the morale support of the refugees worldwide. Every year thousands of people volunteer to reduce the pain of refugees to assure them that they are not alone. 

The themes for World Refugee Day since its beginning are as follows

  • World Refugee Day 2001 theme- Respect.”
  • 2002 theme- “Tolerance.”
  • 2003 theme- “Refugee Youth: Building the Future.”
  • 2004 theme- “Courage.”
  • 2005- “Courage.”
  • World Refugee Day 2006 theme- “Hope.”
  • 2007 theme- “Perseverance.”
  • World Refugee Day 2008 theme- “Protection.”
  • 2009 theme- “Home.”
  • World Refugee Day 2010 theme- “1 Refugee Forced to Flee is too Many.”
  • 2011 theme- “1 Refugee without Hope is too Many.”
  • 2012 theme- “1 Family Torn Apart by War is too Many.”
  • 2013 theme- “Take 1 Minute to Support a Family Forced to Flee.”
  • World Refugee Day 2014 theme- “Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World.”
  • 2015 theme- “ With Courage Let Us All Combine.”
  • 2016 theme- “We Stand Together With Refugees.”
  • 2017 theme- “Embracing Refugees to Celebrate Our Common Humanity.”
  • The theme of 2018- “Now More Than Ever, We Need to Stand With Refugees.”
  • World Refugee Day 2019 theme- “#StepWithRefugees- Take A Step on World Refugee Day.”

World Refugee Day 2020 Quotes

These are some heart-touching quotes that are capable enough to express the feeling of the refugees who had to leave their places forcibly due to war or other kinds of conflicts. You can share these quotes to make people aware of the pain of refugees that they go through every single day.

  • “A refugee is someone who survived and who can create the future.”- Amela Koluder

  • “Refugees are not terrorists. They are often the first victims of terrorism.”- Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres

  • “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”- Emma Lazarus

  • “Refugees didn’t just escape a place. They had to escape a thousand memories until they’d put enough time and distance between them and their misery to wake to a better day.”- Nadi Hashimi 

  • “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”- Warsan Shire

  • “We have a legal and moral obligation to protect people fleeing bombs, bullets & tyrants, and throughout history, those people have enriched our society.”- Juliet Stevenson

  • “It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.”- Dina Nayeri 

  • “People floating like pollen in search of more fertile soil.”- Andrew Crofts

  • “A lasting solution, the possibility to begin a new life, is the only dignified solution for the refugee himself.”- Poul Hartling

  • “Refugees have done more for my heart and my spirit than I can ever express in words.”- Angelina Jolie

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Refugees are also human beings like us. They are displaced from their houses not because they wish to do so, but due to war conditions. Refugees have feelings, they also feel pain, and they also want to live a fearless life like all of us.  

Why don’t we spend some time with them to give assurance that they are safe here? Take the initiative this World Refugee Day 2020 to celebrate various activities and events.


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