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It’s World Refugee Day: ‘Each Time You Blink Another Person Is Forced To Flee’
June 20, 2013
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An Afghan refugee woman in the suburbs of Islamabad, Pakistan, June 19, 2013 (Photo: AP/B.K. Bangash)

Today is UN World Refugee Day, and the number of global refugees is at a 19-year high, according to a new report.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has released a paper showing that the total number of people who have been displaced by war and other crises has reached 45.2 million.

That's the highest level in almost two decades. The report, 'Displacement: The New 21st Century Challenge', also states that last year 1.1 million people fled across international borders and 6.5 million were newly displaced within their own countries.

"This means one in each 4.1 seconds," Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, told reporters. "So each time you blink, another person is forced to flee."

Here's an overview of refugee trends from the report:


Refugees were forced from their homes due to persecution, conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations, the report says.

Conflicts in Syria, Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the border areas between Sudan and South Sudan forced more than one million people to leave their own country.

By the end of 2012, UNHCR was caring for 28.2 million people, an increase of 2.3 million people from the year before.

world-refugee-day-displaced.jpgThe chart on the left shows increases in displaced persons since 2003, with an average of 23,000 people becoming refugees daily in 2012.

"These truly are alarming numbers," Guterres said. "They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them."

There was some good news in the report: about 526,000 refugees headed back to their homes in 2012, a similar situation to the previous year.

If you want to get out there and show your support for refugees around the world, here's a list of events planned across Canada (visit the UNHCR website for the full list and contact information):

British Columbia


Hosts: ISSofBC; Vancity; Settlement Orientation Services (S.O.S); Vancouver Public Library

When: 20 June 2013, 11:30am - 1:00pm

Where: Vancouver Central Library, 350 West Georgia St.

Event: Join in marking World Refugee Day, dedicated to protecting refugees and providing them with opportunities to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. The event also highlights ISSofBC's plans for the new Welcome House Centre and Vancity's generous donation to the project.


Host: Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society

When: 20 - 23 June 2013

Where: Greater Victoria Public Library
• Saanich Centennial Branch, June 20, 7:00-8:30 pm
• Oak Bay Branch, June 21, 11:30-1:30 pm
• Central, June 22, 11:30-1:30 pm.

Event: The 1st Victoria World Refugee Week is planned to take place over 3 days: June 20-23, 2013. This 3 day period will feature key speakers and documentaries highlighting the triumph of the human spirit, manifested in stories of refugees who survived severe challenges throughout their journey, including in their countries of first asylum and resettlement.

Bangladeshi refugee Nazmul Huda in Hong Kong's New Territories, June 19, 2013 (Photo: Reuters/Bobby Yip)



Host: Calgary Catholic Immigration Society

When: 20 June 2013, 6:00-9:00 pm

Where: John Dutton Theatre, Central Library, 616 McLeod Trail SE

Event: "A Collective Voice for Hope": event featuring inspiring stories from former refugees, discussion on displacement and collective action, and celebration through multicultural music, dance, and cuisine. Keynote speakers include Wayne Cao (MLA) and Michael Embaie (African Community

Host: Calgary Catholic Immigration Society

When: 20 June 2013, 5:00pm

Where: St Mary's Cathedral (219 - 18 Ave SW)

Event: a celebration of Refugee Sponsorship (Mass - 5:00 pm, Reception to follow)



Host: Saskatoon Refugee Coalition

When: Thursday, June 20, 12 p.m. noon - 12:45 p.m

Where: Civic Square Saskatoon City Hall

Event: World Refugee Day. Join with the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition to celebrate the achievements of refugees in our community!



When: 21 June 2013, 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Where: Cross Point Christian Reformed Church, 444 Steeles Ave West

Event: World Refugee Day 2013. Hosted by the Evangelical Asian Church and the Canadian Christian Association. Government, NGOs, human rights organizations, churches and organization representatives are expected to attend the event.

Fort Erie

Host: Fort Erie Multicultural Centre

When: 20 June 2013, 10:00 am

Where: Peace Bridge Authority Parking Lot (corner of Queen and High Streets)

Event: Join the community as we walk from the Peace Bridge, where many refugees enter Canada, to two shelters that house refugees when they first arrive in Fort Erie, and finally to St. Michael's Church Hall for a light luncheon and celebration of the successes and contributions of newcomers in Fort Erie.


Host: Community Coalition on Refugee and Immigrant Concerns

When: 20 June, 2013 5:00 - 8:00 pm

Where: Kitchener City Hall

Event: A unique opportunity to share music and performing arts from around the world! Musicians with refugee backgrounds from Latin America, Asia and Africa, as well as local choirs and drumming groups.


Host: North Park Community Church

When: Thursday 20 June - 7:00 pm

Where: North Park Community Church, 1510 Fanshawe Park Road E, London, ON N5X 4A3

Event: 'God Grew Tired of Us' is the award-winning Sundance Film Festival documentary about three of the "Lost Boys of Sudan," a group of some 25,000 young men who have fled the wars in Sudan since the 1980's, and their experiences as they move to North America.


Host: Ottawa Refugee Network

When: 20 June 2013; 11:00am - 2:00pm

Where: Human Rights Monument (Elgin and Lisgar) and Parliament Hill (Wellington and Metcalfe)

Event: Proud to Protect Refugees - educational information and activities on site.


When: 20 June 2013, 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Where: Yonge-Dundas Square

Events: Walk a Mile in a Refugee's Shoes starting at Nathan Phillips Square City Hall (ramp and location of UNHCR flag) at 11:00 am.

Concert at Yonge Dundas Square: African Guitar Summit, Robi Botos, Allyson Morris, award winning author Dr. Vincent Lam (Headmaster's Wager and Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures).

Award ceremony for the UNHCR-COSTI Refugees and Human Rights Child and Youth Poetry Contest.

Community exhibits and information booths from agencies working with refugees and asylum seekers.

Details at http://www.worldrefugeedayto.ca


When: 20 June 2013: 12:00 - 2:30 pm

Where: Windsor Public Library, 850 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, ON

Event: The opening event at the Windsor Public Library will commence at 12:00 p.m. with our national anthem, followed by welcoming remarks from attending dignitaries. Attendees at the local event will be exposed to moving, heartfelt and inspirational expressions from refugees, through storytelling, poetry, dance, and music. By gathering together to share commonalities and celebrate differences, the event serves to foster respect, understanding, and community.

Afghan refugees knot a carpet at the Khorasan refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, June 19, 2013 (Photo: Getty/AFP/A Majeed)



When: 20 June 2013, 5:30pm - 7:30pm

Where: Auditorium du Centre d'archives de Montréal, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Édifice Gilles-Hocquart, 535, av. Viger Est (métro Berri-UQAM)

Event: After screening short videos made by resourceful young people on their refugee experience, the audience will have the chance to meet with three youth to hear first-hand how forced migration has impacted their lives and their families, as well as how they have successfully integrated into the fabric of Montreal.


St. John's

Host: Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council

When: Thursday 20 June 2013, 9:00pm

Event: Open mic at the Rose and Thistle (208 Water Street)


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