Burundi. Refugee Families In Nyakanda Refugee Camp
© UNHCR/Samuel Otieno
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Why is World Refugee Day important?

Learn about the history and significance of World Refugee Day, and discover how you can get involved to support refugees worldwide 

Each year on 20 June, the world celebrates the strength and courage of refugees who've fled conflict and persecution. Find out why World Refugee Day is so important, and how this global day honours the resilience and contributions of refugees.

What is World Refugee Day?

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour the millions of refugees around the globe. It shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of those forced to flee. It focuses on solidarity with refugees and aspires to a world where refugees are welcomed. 

Refugees need our solidarity now more than ever. Solidarity means keeping our doors open to those in need, celebrating the strengths and achievements of people forced to flee, and reflecting on the challenges they face. 

Solidarity with refugees also means finding solutions to their plight. UNHCR is committed to ensuring people forced to flee have opportunities to thrive in the communities that have welcomed them, and to providing host countries with the resources they need to include and support refugees. 

Why is World Refugee Day important?

World Refugee Day shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of refugees. By raising awareness, it helps to mobilise resources so refugees can not only survive but thrive. 

While it is important to protect and improve the lives of refugees every single day, international days like World Refugee Day help to focus global attention on the plight of those fleeing conflict or persecution, as well as the millions of displaced people living in refugee camps. Many activities held on World Refugee Day create opportunities to support refugees.

When is World Refugee Day and when did it start?

World Refugee Day falls on 20 June each year and is dedicated to refugees around the globe. The origins of World Refugee Day can be traced back to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which was adopted by the United Nations to establish the legal framework for the protection of refugees.

The Convention defines a refugee as someone who has been forced to flee their country due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. It also sets out the rights and obligations of refugees, as well as the responsibilities of the countries that host or receive them. 

World Refugee Day was held globally for the first time in 2001 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention. 

What happens on World Refugee Day?

Each year, World Refugee Day is marked by a variety of events in many countries around the globe – including Australia – in support of refugees. These activities are led by or involve refugees themselves, government officials, host communities, companies, celebrities, school children and the general public, among others.

The theme for World Refugee Day varies each year, but it often focuses on the resilience and strength of refugees, as well as the need for greater support and solidarity from the international community. 

One of the main goals of World Refugee Day is to challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about refugees and to highlight their contributions to the communities where they seek refuge. Refugees are often portrayed as helpless victims, but in reality, they are resilient and resourceful individuals who make meaningful contributions to their host societies. Many refugees are skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, and activists who are eager to rebuild their lives and to contribute to the societies that welcome them.

Ethiopia. World Refugee Day in Mirqaanno
© UNHCR/Diana Diaz
Somali refugees commemorate World Refugee Day in Mirqaan settlement, Ethiopia.

Five ways you can show solidarity with refugees in Australia

There are many ways you can support refugees with a donation to UNHCR. You can help UNHCR provide emergency aid in crises by becoming a regular donor. Alternatively, you can make a gift to one of our specific appeals, such as the ongoing emergency in Ukraine, and programs like our Aiming Higher education campaign.

Join us on social media to help amplify the voices of refugees this World Refugee Day. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, X (formally known as Twitter), YouTube and TikTok

Discover the latest stats and trends in forced displacement globally.

Join our mailing list to receive regular updates on news and events at Australia for UNHCR, including our annual World Refugee Day lunch

Raising money for Australia for UNHCR is as simple as doing something you love – while asking friends and family to support you. By joining Team UNHCR as a fundraiser, you’ll raise crucial funds and awareness to support refugees around the world.

Three stories that unite us with refugees

We Were Here is a Webby Award-winning documentary series produced by UNHCR and YouTube. 

In support of World Refugee Day, these three short films challenge stereotypes about refugees by focusing on what unites us rather than what sets us apart. Refugees in Jordan, Germany, and Uganda collaborated with top YouTube creators to share their powerful stories.

Watch the uplifting story of three Ukrainian sisters whose performing career was halted by the war in their homeland:

You can also watch two more videos from the series here:

We hope their stories inspire and uplift you.

A day to celebrate resilience and hope

World Refugee Day is an opportunity to celebrate the resilience, strength and diversity of refugees and to recognise the valuable contributions they make to the societies where they seek refuge. Refugees bring with them unique skills, knowledge and experiences that enrich the cultural, social, and economic fabric of their host communities. By embracing diversity and inclusivity, societies can harness the potential of refugees and create more inclusive and cohesive communities. 

As the global refugee crisis continues to grow, the importance of World Refugee Day in promoting compassion, inclusion, and protection for displaced people is greater than ever. 

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