This year, the number of people forced to leave their home reached a record 100 million. Under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and international law, every person has a right to seek safety. Yet, too often, leaders ignore their international responsibilities and people on the move are met with hostility.
The Elders call on global leaders to ensure that every person forced to flee their home receives solidarity, compassion and a dignified reception.
Ban Ki-moon, Deputy Chair of The Elders and former Secretary-General of the UN, says:
"It is sobering that the number of people forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution has reached a record 100 million.
This World Refugee Day, states should reaffirm their commitment to the universal right to seek asylum and should treat all asylum-seekers with compassion and dignity. Governments welcoming Ukrainian refugees while at the same time outsourcing their international asylum obligations sets a shameful precedent."
Zeid Raad al Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, says:
"The remarkable global support for people fleeing Ukraine shows what is possible when the international community has the political will to act.
The EU has rightly given Ukrainians immediate temporary protection and the right to live, work and travel to any Member State of the EU for up to three years. Rich nations should broaden this integration approach to all refugees, wherever they are from.
Giving refugees the right to work, access education, and freedom of movement allows them to live independently and to contribute to the communities they live in."
Hina Jilani, lawyer and human rights advocate, says:
"This World Refugee Day, we need urgent measures to protect all those refugees who are suffering outside of the media spotlight.
During this time of global support for Ukraine, solidarity with refugees must not end there: governments must prioritise the finance and the mechanisms needed to protect every person who has been forcibly displaced. This includes expanding global resettlement commitments, and urgently fulfilling pledges to resettle Afghans seeking protection from the Taliban."
Listening to people with lived-experience of forced migration plays an essential role in developing the services and protection needed for refugees, and The Elders believe that the voices of refugees and asylum-seekers must be centered in all discussions about migration.
Anowar, a Rohingya refugee currently living in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, shares his message for World Refugee Day on why inclusion of all refugee voices is important:
"Since 2017, I have lived in Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, but my home is in Rakhine state, Myanmar. I was forced to leave because of the military “Clearance Operations”. They killed our loved ones, burnt down our houses, confiscated our lands and looted our properties. We came here to save our lives.
On World Refugee Day, I want to say that it is important to include refugee communities in discussions about refugee issues: it is the sufferer who understands the suffering well. I must tell you that it is crucial to include the Rohingya in the international justice process to understand what justice means to them. I would like to see more Rohingya involved in international justice. International justice institutions should empower and work with Rohingya.
My message to the world is to please support us until we have our rights, justice, and are able to return to our motherland with our nationality and citizenship. Thank you."
Find out more about The Elders' work on Refugees and Migration.