Poster for World Refugee Day. Six adult refugees and one child walk in front of a globe with two arms wrapped around hugging them protectively
Mei Lau | Better World Info

➡️ World Refugee Day, June 20 – Honouring Refugees Around the World 

Founded by the United Nations and supported by the UNHCR, World Refugee Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and importance of refugees worldwide. International days such as this help to foster empathy and understanding, encourage support for humanitarian efforts, and promote inclusive policies to aid with the careful management of complex refugee crises.

  • As of 2023, for the first time in recorded history, the number of forcibly displaced people reached 110 million, 43 million of which are children.

  • 70% of refugees live in neighbouring countries to their own, breaking the media narrative of huge refugee influxes from far-away places.

  • 76% of refugees are hosted in poor and middle-income countries. Turkey is currently the single biggest host country.

  • More than half of refugees come from just 3 countriesSyria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine.

  • The world's largest displacement crisis is happening in Sudan where 8 million people have fled their homes.

  • More than half of the worlds displaced population remain inside their own countries as Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

At Better World Info discover our excellent guide on Refugees and Migrants including in-depth resources on the European refugee crisis, the US-Mexican border, North African refugees, undocumented refugees, refugee women and children, supportive organisations, and reliable news sources.


A sprawl of make shift tents has cropped up at Zam Zam Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp, in El Fasher, North Darfur, as tens of thousands have sought protection there following fresh clashes between the Government of Sudan and rebel forces.
Flickr | United Nations Photo

What Causes People to Become Refugees?

The majority of history’s refugees have been the direct or indirect product of war and conflict. In more recent years refugees are more likely to face a combination of difficult and related circumstances which render their home countries unsafe and uninhabitable.

Common causes refugees flee include:

  • Hunger: 20 million people in North Africa and the Middle East are facing extreme hunger and famine caused by drought. Widespread food insecurity has driven people from their homelands in search of food and drinking water.

  • Climate: By 2050, it is estimated that 1.2 billion people will be climate refugees, displaced by natural disasters exacerbated by climate change and other serious ecological threats. Despite this, climate change is not yet a valid reason for an asylum claim.

  • Religion: Persecuted for their beliefs or ethnicity and chased out by government sponsored genocide. Examples include Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Christians in the CAR, and Hindu’s in Pakistan.

  • Sexual orientation: In some countries members of the LGBTQI+ community are subject to violence, targeted killing, torture, physical attacks, arbitrary detention, denial of rights, and discrimination in education, employment, and healthcare.

Repressive regimes and conflict inevitably bring with them violations of human rights and the creation of large-scale humanitarian crises. As the biggest losers of war, civilians face limited access to education, housing, energy, food, employment, and safe shelter.

In search of safety and a better quality of life many refugees end up living in refugee camps in deplorable conditions. Overcrowded, these camps struggle to provide even basic facilities for those in dire need. Intended only as temporary solutions, refugees can spend decades living in them while they wait to return home or try to navigate asylum bureaucracy.


Protesters gather outside to support the arrival of refugees. There are two larg white signs one reads 'One world, one family' and the other says 'Refugees welcome noone is illegal.'
Flickr | Ilias Bartolini

International Laws Protecting Refugees

The term refugee was first defined in international law in the 1951 Refugee Convention which was introduced after WWII and the forcible displacement of 50 million people - the first great refugee crisis of the 20th century. 149 countries have signed the convention which outlines the legal responsibility for states to protect refugees and grant them the right to seek asylum.

The legal challenges faced by refugees are immense, worsened by language barriers and insufficient documentation. As such, many refugees remain stuck in limbo. Refugees can fall victim to human trafficking, modern day slavery, and other forms of exploitation. In some countries they are detained by authorities immediately on arrival.

A key provision of the convention is the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning individuals a country where there is a risk of persecution, torture, or any threat to their lives or freedoms. Regardless, governments can try to avoid responsibility and claim risks to national security or funding constraints.


Rohingya children playing at a UNICEF child friendly space, supported by UK aid, inside Batukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh.
Flickr | DFID

Supporting Refugees for a Better World

World Refugee Day reminds us that welcoming and integrating refugees is a global responsibility. It is important that countries around the world step up their efforts to offer protection to refugees and give them the opportunity to build new lives. This requires improved cooperation between governments, NGOs, and the international community.

Given that there have never been more forcibly-displaced people at any point in human history, the urgency of refugee rights is even more poignant.

Refugees are people with stories, dreams and hopes. They have lost family members, become separated from loved ones, uprooted from everything they have ever known, and have endured horrific experiences. Yet they are strong and resilient, they bring valuable skills, experiences, and cultural diversity to their host communities.

Social integration is an essential part of improving refugee success stories. Willingness to adapt by the refugees and efforts by host communities can help eliminate hostilities and issues created by racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.

This World Refugee Day let’s prioritise human rights and dignity. Refugees are not anonymous; they are individuals seeking safety and protection.

Author: Jasi Groeneveld 19.06.23 licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0 translated and edited by Rachael Mellor 12.06.24

For further reading on World Refugee Day see below ⬇️


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