Statement by SRSG Zahir Tanin on the occasion of World Refugee Day
Today, the 20th of June, we mark World Refugee Day, as designated by the UN General Assembly from the year 2000 onward, and exactly 65 years since the Convention and Protocols relating to the Status of Refugees were signed by 144 UN Member States.
As of this year, wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than at any time since those documents were signed, and indeed since records began. We have felt it closely in this region, with the hundreds of thousands having transited the Balkans region this past year, seeking shelter in Europe, before the institution of new controls in March. As we are all aware, many perished in the sea simply trying to reach the Greek shoreline. Among these men, women, and children are many whose names sadly will never even be known.
Here in Kosovo, as in all parts of the region, the breakup of Yugoslavia also resulted in many hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced, many of whom have not returned even today to their former homes.
I thus invite all to take this opportunity to reflect on our role as individuals, as well as civil servants of the United Nations, and to commit ourselves once again to doing what we can to allay the cruelty inflicted by wars, persecution and poverty. As an institution, the United Nations must also stand up for the principles enshrined in the 1951 Convention: however much the policy of Member States is guided by political and economic realities, the plight of individuals and their families must remain the foremost guiding principle.
“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon