Home » News » #WithRefugees petition heads to UN Secretary-General

#WithRefugees petition heads to UN Secretary-General

This unaccompanied 16-year-old Afghan boy told UNHCR he tried to cross into Hungary with the help of smugglers but was arrested by the Hungarian authorities. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

An unaccompanied 16-year-old Afghan boy in Hungary. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

With over 1.3 million signatures, the petition will be handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Peter Thomson in New York.

NEW YORK – We asked you to show solidarity with millions of refugees and more than 1.3 million of you have come forward and signed UNHCR’s #WithRefugees petition. Thank you.

To ensure the call is heard in the highest places, it will now be handed in to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson, this afternoon in New York.

The appeal will be delivered by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, together with refugees and prominent UNHCR supporters, in a symbolic gesture just days before the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants on September 19.

When the petition was launched in June, Grandi spoke about why UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was making such a public call to support refugees.

‘’We are in a period of deepening conflict and turmoil in the world, which is causing many more people to flee their homes than before,” said Grandi. “It affects and involves us all, and what it needs is understanding, compassion and political will to come together and find real answers for the refugee plight. This has become a defining challenge of our times.

“In 2015, millions of people were newly displaced, adding again to the global refugee and internal displacement totals. Overwhelmingly, it was countries of the developing world that were most affected, but Europe too witnessed dramatic scenes, as hundreds of thousands of people crossed the Mediterranean in search of safety and refuge. Thousands died along the way.”

The petition calls on representatives of the 193 governments attending the Summit to make sure all refugee children can go to school; that all refugees have a safe place to live and that all refugees can work and contribute to their local community.

The handover will feature a live performance by award-winning slam poet Emi Mahmoud of her ode to drowned Syrian refugee toddler Alan Kurdi, and a recitation of the petition by UNHCR supporter Ben Stiller and comments by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, model and former refugee Alek Wek.

Grandi said that at the height of the refugee crisis in Europe, many ordinary people had come forward to help. “There was an extraordinary outpouring of empathy and solidarity, as ordinary people and communities opened their homes and their hearts to refugees, and some countries have welcomed new arrivals even while already hosting large numbers of refugees.”

After making history at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Refugee Olympic Team swimmer Yusra Mardini from Syria and runner Yiech Pur Biel from South Sudan will also be in attendance, as will resettled refugees living in the United States, who will speak in support of the petition’s main asks.

The hand-in event will be the culmination of a week of global broadcasts by UN Refugee Agency celebrity supporters on Facebook Live, encouraging people in every region to sign the #WithRefugees petition, which will remain active until all its goals are achieved.

These broadcasts were launched by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, premiering a film she produced with Facebook entitled ‘What They Took with Them’. Taken from the poem of the same name written by Jenifer Toksvig, it lists things refugees carried with them when they fled, and expresses the trauma when conflict and persecution force people to leave their homes.

The film will also be shown at the event, which is being broadcast on Facebook Live.