Refugees from the Janokoida shelter, in Pacaraima, Roraima, volunteer to participate on the art contest for the World Refugee Day 2020

Refugees from the Janokoida shelter, in Pacaraima, Roraima, volunteer to participate on the art contest for the World Refugee Day 2020. © UNHCR/Lucas Novaes

As COVID-19 has shown, solidarity is more important than ever. Join UNHCR today in celebrating refugees’ courage and resilience worldwide.

From concerts to cooking workshops, slam poetry to synchronized swimming, millions of people are are taking part in events celebrating World Refugee Day at a time when global unity has never been more important.

The event, held on 20 June each year, honours the courage and determination of those who have been forced to abandon their homes and flee persecution and conflict.

This year, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is asking people from all walks of life to join #WithRefugees. Remember, everyone can make a difference, and every action counts.

Check back here throughout the day for updates:

Last Entry of the 2020 World Refugee Day Live Blog

New York, New York, USA 

We know that nearly eighty million people have been forced to flee war, conflict and persecution to seek safey either somwhere else inside their own country, or outside their country. We know that hate and discrimination are making it difficult for many people in the world to build their best lives, love whom they want to love or be who they want to be. We know that COVID-19 is ravaging communities.

But we also know that it would be impossible to listen to the powerful words of Sudanese-American poet Emi, hear the young voices of the Amazon Canaries or listen to the fabulous Lebanese film director Nadine Labaki speak with young actor and former refugee Zain about his new life, without feeling hopeful.

Scroll through these entries. Get inspired. Recharge. And remember: Every action counts.

Here’s something to keep you going:

Trinidad and Tobago 

Listen to Every Action Counts, The Concert, featuring performers from Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria and Venezuela who spent some of their time in quarantine putting together this special show. Enjoy now or later!

Pacaraima, Brazil 

Listen to the Amazon Canaries sing! Made up of young people from the northern Brazliian border town of Pacaraima, as well as young people who came from across the border in Venezuela who now live in Brazil, the choir is known in Portuguese as Canarinhos da Amazônia.

San Juan Comalapa, Guatemala

Have you ever heard a song sung in Maya Kaqchikel, one of the indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala? Listen to a special World Refugee Day concert by Sara Curruchich – a Guatemalan singer-songwriter who regales audiences around the world with her soulful music in Spanish and Maya Kaqchikel.

Geneva, Switzerland 

At the #AmplifyNow virtual conference, 50 participants from around the world discussed ways to improve education for refugees. They brainstormed lots of good ideas, including remote learning, online internships and more. You can peek in on their discussion here.

Galway, Ireland 

Our High Profile Supporter Jess Murphy is a New Zealand-born chef and co-founder (with her husband, Dave) of Kai restaurant in Galway, Ireland. She has traveled to Lebanon and Jordan to meet with Syrian refugees and document their food culture. Here she showcases meals representing countries from which Ireland has welcomed refugees.

Pretoria, South Africa 

Our Southern Africa office held a virtual photo exhibit for World Refugee Day. The photo below was taken by Hélène Caux at the Maratane refugee camp in northern Mozambique. Take a look at all of the stunning work here.

Kalemie, the Democratic Republic of the Congo

On World Refugee Day, these Burundian farmers received agricultural tools. The group of farmers, who are all refugees, grows cabbage, onions and tomatoes to sell at the local market. Nearly 50 families work together.


In Panama, dancers working with our partner, Programa Enlaces, present “Sueños” (Dreams), a contemporary dance piece choreographed in part by Panamanian and refugee young people for World Refugee Day.

Liverpool, UK

We are honoured to work with star footballer Mohamed Salah and the Vodafone Foundation to expand the Instant Network Schools Digital Learning Programme, which has already helped more than 86,500 refugee students to support more than half a million young people.

Bogotá, Colombia 

Humanity in harmony. Today we are thrilled to be able to hear The New World Orchestra joined by artists, journalists and others to perform the song, Human, by the band ChocQuibTown.


Lebanese director Nadine Labaki spoke with former refugee and actor Zain about his new life in Norway. Nadine “discovered” the young actor and cast him in her film, Capernaum, the highest-grossing Middle Eastern film in history. Capernaum was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards and selected for the Palm d’Or at Cannes.

Geneva, Switzerland

Young refugees and migrants spoke of their hopes, dreams and the challenges of exile in a wide-ranging discussion with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Geneva today.

“I want to study, I want to work, and I want to make a success of my life,” Magaly, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said in a discussion at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency’s headquarters in Geneva.

The 17-year-old, who hopes to turn a passion for sewing into a career in couture, was among five young people taking part. Looking to the future, Mamadou, 21, from Guinea-Conakry, and Gabi, 22, from Guinea-Bissau, spoke of wanting to give back to their communities. Twenty- one-year-old Somali Deeqa,meanwhile, dreamt even bigger: “I want to be president of Somalia,” she said.

The conversation covered integration, racism, detention, dangerous journeys, the role and limits of UNHCR, and the challenges of finding work. Grandi said the exchange refuted negative perceptions of refugees as either a threat, or more often, as “poor, miserable and suffering people.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi meets with unaccompanied refugee siblings from Afghanistan who were reunited in Switzerland, where they now live.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi meets with unaccompanied refugee siblings from Afghanistan who were reunited in Switzerland, where they now live. © UNHCR/Susan Hopper

“What you have shown me is quite the contrary – you are people who have hope, energy, resourcefulness, strength, and who want to succeed,” he said.

The High Commissioner later met with Afghan children who were among a group of 23 flown to Switzerland in mid-May from Greece under a family reunification programme.

Fifteen-year-old Asman – not her real name – told how harsh economic conditions in Iran drove her to Greece. She spent six months living in a tent at an informal settlement on the Island of Samos, where she witnessed violent attacks.

“It is a big relief to be here,” said Asman, who joined her 20-year-old brother in Switzerland. “There is much more tolerance and acceptance here.”

Given a chance at a new life, she plans to study, become a doctor and “help refugees.”

New York, New York, USA 

Join us  NOW (or later if you miss it) for a virtual concert from the UN Chamber Music Society.


Today, a young refugee from Syria has taken over the UN Youth Envoy’s Twitter account. Ask this amazing young man about his work to help his peers stay mentally fit.

Yei, South Sudan

Feel the energy as a group of refugees and their South Sudanese hosts in Yei come together for a celebratory performance of Nuban dance.

South African actress and activist Nomzamo Mbatha is a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

In 2018 she travelled to South Sudan, where she met internally displaced people in Juba and visited Maban refugee camp, considered to be the most remote refugee camp in the world. The people she met in South Sudan made a lasting impression, including UNHCR’s own Eujin Byun.

To mark World Refugee Day, Nomzamo caught up with Eujin, who is now based in Kenya, to talk about how refugees and dislpaced people in Kenya and South Sudan are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mindanao, Philippines

Atom Araullo is one of the best known faces in broadcast journalism in the Philippines, and has risen to prominence after his extensive coverage of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. A UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, he is speaking out for millions of people uprooted from their homes worldwide who now face the additional danger of COVID-19.

Shanghai, China

German retiree Sonja Muehlberger recalls growing up as a refugee in Shanghai during WWII in the latest of a series of video stories by UNHCR China and Xinhua News Agency. They include profiles of Rafedin – a fashion brand made by Iraqi girls in Jordan – and Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini who competed in the pool at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics.

Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The 99-story Kingdom Tower, the tallest building in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, is illuminated in UN Blue to mark #WorldRefugeeDay.

Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom Tower lights in UN blue for World Refugee Day 2020

The Kingdom Tower, Riyadh, lit up in UN Blue for World Refugee Day.   © UNHCR/Noha Maarouf

Madrid, Spain

Refugee musicians from Venezuela and Syria struck up Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ at an event at Madrid’s historic Teatro Lara. In a surprise close, Spanish singer Nach and Colombian artist Juanes’ launched their latest single #Pasarán. You can watch the full event here.

Lima, Peru

When a call went out in Peru for refugees and their hosts to show their talents, more than 250 prople responded, submitting one-minute videos of classical dance performances, ballads, poetry and more. The quality is high and judges have a #WorldRefugeeDay challenge ahead as they choose a winner.

Los Angeles, California, USA

Miry’s List in Los Angeles is celebrating World Refugee Day with food! Syrian cooks will be whipping up meals  people can order and pick up curbside. The organization’s mission is to welcome newly arrived refugees to the community. If you missed out on ordering this month, don’t worry – there will be chances to order in the future!

Miami, Florida, USA

Venezuelan superstar and UNHCR High Profile Supporter Danny Ocean regales fans worldwide with a Couch Concert on the eve of World Refugee Day.

New York, New York, USA

A lively discussion and music happening in New York!

Rikuzentakata, Japan

Authorities in Rikuzentakata lit up the city’s famed Miracle Pine Tree in UN Blue to honour #WorldRefugeeDay. The tree became a symbol of recovery in the city, which was one of the hardest hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The City of Rikuzentakata lights up the Miracle Pine Tree in UN Blue to honour World Refugee Day

The City of Rikuzentakata lights up the Miracle Pine Tree in UN Blue to honour World Refugee Day. © UNHCR/Masashi Kanno

Thessaloniki, Greece

Greece hosts around 121,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Swimmers at a club in Thessaloniki spelled out a message of inclusion ahead of #WorldRefugeeDay.

Belmopan, Belize

The cooking show ‘A Taste of Central America’ features an asylum seeker in Belize showing how to make pupusas – El Salvador’s mouth-watering national dish – and talking about what made her flee her country in search of safety.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Betty G is one of Africa’s fastest rising music stars, catapulted to stardom following the release of her debut album ‘Manew Fitsum’ and appearances in Coke Studio Africa. A UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, she sent a message of support ahead of #WorldRefugeeDay.

Sudanese-American slam poet Emi Mahmoud supports UNHCR’s work as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Her message ahead of #WorldRefugeeDay is one we all need to hear: ‘Some things that haven’t been stopped by COVID-19: wars, domestic violence, famine, pestilence, displacement – our will to live.’

Utica, New York, USA 

Take a walk – real or virtual – and listen to refugees describe their journey to New York State as you take your own journey. Hop on a treadmill, walk around the block or just dance around your house. Just because we cannot walk together this year doesn’t mean we can’t share our stories. Put on your headphones and get moving! You can also read moving stories here.

Originally published on UNHCR on 19 June 2020

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