STATEMENT OF THE UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR, MS. NATHALIE NDONGO-SEH AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE WORLD REFUGEE DAY 2021 HELD VIRTUALLY ON 18 JUNE 2021 UNDER THE TH
A very good morning to you all. It is with pleasure that I address you today as we celebrate the 20th annual World Refugee Day. A day first celebrated on the 20th of June 2001, after the United Nations General Assembly officially designated the 20th of June as the International Day for Refugees.
This day seeks to honour refugees across the globe, who have shown immense strength, courage and resilience as they were forced to flee their homes in the face of conflict, persecution or disaster. Today we shine a light on the needs of our displaced brothers and sisters, so that they are not left behind, especially as the world fights to recover from the scourge of COVID-19, and as we realise how greater the effects of the pandemic have been on those populations that are already vulnerable.
As the world looks forward, towards building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to realise that “no one is safe until everyone is safe”. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our displaced brothers and sisters have equitable access to not only vaccines and medical care and support, but also to the tools and support needed for them to thrive and prosper in their new lives. As we celebrate the World Refugee Day under the theme, “Together we Heal, Learn and Shine”, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has underscored three areas in which refugees can be supported, especially during the present crisis where lockdowns and restrictions on movement have greatly affected those fleeing their homes due to conflict, persecution or disaster.
UNHCR said, and I quote:
1. The world can’t overcome COVID-19 if it overlooks refugees, because no one is safe until everyone is safe. We need to ensure that people forced to flee have access to vaccines, care, medicine and psychological support, like everyone else.
2. We all benefit when everyone has access to education. We are calling for the creation of scholarships and education opportunities for displaced youth. We also call for greater access to digital education for refugee students.
3. Sport is a great way to heal, develop and grow, especially for people fleeing conflict or persecution. We call for greater support to refugee sport programmes. We also encourage all sport fans to support the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams that will compete in the Tokyo games.
These are just some of the ways in which countries can support the over 26 million refugees around the world. According to UNHCR, as of the 31st of January 2021, the Kingdom of Eswatini reported 1,765 refugees and asylum seekers.
The Government’s COVID-19 response, through its health information campaigns, which the United Nations in Eswatini was proud to be a part of, reached 425 refugees and asylum seekers at the Malindza Refugee Camp in the Lubombo Region.
I would like to commend the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini and indeed all partners for their efforts in ensuring that the country’s Refugees and Asylum seekers are not left behind in this very crucial fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
We do encourage all partners to ensure that these efforts continue even beyond COVID-19. With less than ten years left to achieve Agenda 2030 of Sustainable Development, we have no time to waste. It is in solidarity between the Government, partners and all stakeholders, including refugees and asylum seekers, which are at risk of being left behind, that we will recover better from the pandemic and achieve both Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063.
In conclusion, I wish to leave you with a quote from Ms. Dina Nayeri, the Iranian American writer and former refugee and asylum seeker who stated that “It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room to open the door when someone in danger knocks.” I thank you.