June 20th: World Refugee Day

Angelina, Anderson Cooper, plus politicians and journalists from all over the world were in D.C. yesterday to start commemorating World Refugee Day, which will be tomorrow June 20th.

The United Nations has declared tomorrow World Refugee Day. Now the day is nothing new, nor are the millions of people without countries or homes worldwide. Africa Refugee Day has been celebrated on June 20th for many years, and as a show of unity and support of Africa, the UN decided to coordinate International Refugee Day with Africa’s Refugee Day.

Africa is home to the most refugees in the world, and according to the U.N has “shown them great generosity.” Most modern refugee crises result from civil wars or internal conflicts, which forced out of their homes or homelands, officially becoming refugees or “displaced persons.”

Technically, a refugee is someone who is outside of their home country. They have left their country to escape persecution, armed conflict or violence and are traditionally offered protection by another country. Many new refugees however remain inside the borders of their own countries, and are called internally displaced persons, like in Darfur.

Here are a few facts about why this day is so important:

  • 50 million people in the world are victims of forced displacement
  • Almost two-thirds of the world’s refugees are in the Middle East and Africa
  • Half of all refugees come from just three places, they are: Palestinians, Iraqi, or Afghan.

These conflicts and refugees may seem far away, but many refugees are living in the United States, and you can do something to help. Research ‘resettlement offices’ in your town and give them a call to ask if they have volunteer opportunities in your town. A lot of resettlement offices have programs to tutor refugees in English. Or you can help people in your school learn about violence that creates refugees, like the genocide in Darfur. You can check out the UNHCR for more tips too.

Hear from A UN Goodwill Ambassador herself (ok she’s a superstar celeb too). And don't forget to check out how other Hollywood heavyweights, like Ben Affleck, are going all out for refugees.