What is World Refugee Day?

Photo courtesy of Lisa Krantz

World Refugee Day is a day celebrated around the globe to honor the strength and resilience of refugees.

Refugees are individuals who have been forced to flee their homes due to persecution, war, violence, and famine. For many of us, when we hear the word “refugee”, we think of the most vulnerable individuals in the world – images of the boy on the beach in Syria or a starving child somewhere in a camp in Africa. But the word “refugee” means much more than that – it also represents strength, courage, and the human capacity to succeed. That is why we honor refugees with World Refugee Day

When is World Refugee Day?

World Refugee Day is celebrated each year on June 20th. Communities across the United States now hold events throughout the month of June.  The month of June is now also a time to raise awareness about the current refugee crisis. Today, there are more refugees in the world than at any time since World War II.

When was it started?

World Refugee Day was started by a United Nations Declaration in 2000. The first World Refugee Day was celebrated in 2001, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees (the legal document that protected refugees after World War II).

How do different countries celebrate around the globe?

Many countries honor World Refugee Day by illuminating major landmarks. In the past, this has included the lighting (typically in blue) of the Colosseum in Rome, the Eifel Tower in Paris, the Tokyo Building in Japan, and the United Nations building in Switzerland.

What can I do in honor of World Refugee Day?

Here are three things you can do:

  • USAHello loves to hear stories of how refugees make our lives better. If you know, work with, or are friends with a refugee, please email us at [email protected] and we will can discuss you writing a blog post about your experience.
  • Advocate for newcomers in your community.Refugee Council USA, the national network of organizations that lead refugee resettlement in the United States, has prepared a World Refugee Day toolkit to help you advocate for newcomers.
  • Take our free online course Welcoming Our Newest Neighbors.The course is short and easy – it takes less than two hours – and will prepare you to better work, volunteer, or simply make friends with refugees in your own community. The course offers practical tips and provides useful information on trauma, interacting with English Language Learners, and the resettlement process. When you finish, search our FindHello database to find a local organization to volunteer your time.

What can my community do?

In the United States, many communities host events, fairs, music festivals, film screenings and other events in honor of World Refugee Day. If you live in a large city, there is probably already an event being planned by your local resettlement agencies, church, or community groups. You can search for an event in your community on this map from

If you cannot find an event in your community, consider planning one. You can use this guide from Welcoming America or you can just do something small like hosting a global dinner with your friends and spending a few minutes talking about why it’s important to support and welcome refugees.

This day is a time to celebrate the strengths of individuals who have come to our country and made it a better place.

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