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Across the world there are currently over 100 million people who have had to leave their homes. Some have settled in new countries; many more are living in refugee camps, waiting for it to be safe enough to go home or settle in a different country. The United Nations decided that refugees should have a special day, when we think of them and show our support. The first World Refugee Day was on 20 June 2001, and it's been celebrated every year since then.
Why is World Refugee Day important?
More people than ever before have been forced to leave their countries, and very few of them have been able to return. Every moment of the day, people are leaving everything behind to escape war, persecution or the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters. A refugee crisis on this scale is difficult to deal with, but the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, reminds us that 'the problems are war and hatred, not people who flee'.
The aim of World Refugee Day
World Refugee Day helps to raise awareness of the dangerous and difficult situation refugees are in. Safety is a human right, and the message of World Refugee Day is that everyone has the right to seek safety. The aim of the day is to create empathy and understanding, and to get political and practical support to help refugees. It is also a day to recognise the bravery and strength of people who have to face many dangers and difficulties to rebuild their lives.
What happens on World Refugee Day?
There are a lot of events on 20 June in different countries. These events are often organised by, or involve, refugees themselves. Many famous landmarks, such as the Tokyo Tower in Tokyo and the Empire State Building in New York, are covered in blue lights to show solidarity with refugees. In Glasgow, Scotland, people hold hands to form an enormous human chain around George Square, in the city centre, to 'show the world that Scotland welcomes refugees'. In many places there are film showings, exhibitions and various fundraising events.
What you can do to help
There are petitions worldwide, organised by the United Nations. By adding your name to the list, you are sending the message that every person has the right to seek safety. You can also make donations to charities that support refugees, or write letters to your governments asking them to take action. People are also getting involved in action against climate change and its effects, to prevent more people becoming climate refugees.