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World Refugee Day – June 20, 2011

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By Jae Won Kim – Intern at BOILA PC

World Refugee Day 2011In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 55/76 which established June 20 as World Refugee Day.  The passage of this resolution was significant as it occurred on the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the organizer for World Refugee Day.  Because this year marks the 10th anniversary of the event, in addition to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the UNHCR, the UNHCR has created a new campaign to mark the event.  The “One” campaign will run for six months and will depict the stories of refugees throughout the world.  The campaign is referred to as the “One” campaign to spread the UNHCR’s message that “One Refugee without Hope is too many.”

The UNHCR has chosen Rome as the focus of this year’s event.  Antonio Guterres, the current High Commissioner of the UNHCR will preside over the events.  Guterres will present a report detailing the current activities of the UNHCR.  Additionally, there will be a special commemorative event at the Roman Coliseum that will be attended by the Italian President and a Polish Holocaust survivor.  Guterres will also meet with Libyan Refugees who currently live in Italy.

In an effort to bring World Refugee Day to communities across the globe, the UNHCR launched http://worldrefugeeday2011.com/.  This website offers details of events around the world that commemorate World Refugee Day.  In Washington, DC former Somali refugees will have a performance at the Kennedy Center.  The Hall of Nations at the Kennedy Center is also the host of the works of photographer Greg Constantine depicting the struggles that refugees face.

Although World Refugee Day is now a global event, various organizations have used separate days to mark the plight that refugees face.  The decision to have World Refugee Day on June 20 came after an agreement between the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as the OAU marks African Refugee Day on June 20.

A popular documentary film “Seoul Train” has been widely recognized for excellence in depicting the struggle of refugees.  The film depicts the “underground railroad” of North Korean refugees as they sacrifice their lives to escape the dire humanitarian conditions in their country.  Those that are lucky enough to escape to China must live in hiding for fear that the Chinese authorities will be deported to North Korea prior to their final leg of the journey to South Korea.

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