It takes courage to be a refugee
As ordinary people living peaceful lives, we rarely have to put our courage to the test. Refugees are ordinary people, too, except that through no fault of their own, they find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. As such, they are often required to dig deep into their own inner sources of strength in order, as another dictionary puts it, to find "the ability to overcome fear".
Initially, that fear may be the immediate one of trying to escape the horrors of war and persecution, the pain of losing homes and loved ones, and the ordeal of flight. Later comes the deeper anxiety of uncertainty the worry of how to rebuild their lives, either in completely new circumstances, or back home where they now may not be welcome.
It takes courage to be a refugee. Courage not to give up hope and to make the most of the hand that has been dealt. Courage to start a new life against daunting odds, eventually to become contributing and enriching members of society once more
Over the past five and a half decades, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has had the privilege and the responsibility of helping more than 50 million uprooted people worldwide rebuild their lives. Throughout UNHCR's proud history, they have been constantly inspired by the incredible courage of the refugees we help and protect.
While every refugee's story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage -- the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives.
That is why the word has been chosen "Courage" as the theme of this year's World Refugee Day on June 20th, when we pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of tens of millions of refugees and displaced who have overcome enormous loss and hardship to start anew.
The international community must also do more for the world's estimated 20-25 million internally displaced persons people who have fled their homes, generally because of conflict or persecution, but who remain in their country of origin and therefore are not legally classified as refugees. Obviously, such legal distinctions make little sense to those internally displaced civilians who have been forced from their homes and who face the same problems as refugees. As part of a collaborative U.N. effort, UNHCR currently includes more than 4.4 million internally displaced persons among its 17 million people of concern.
Once their immediate needs are met, UNHCR pursues one of three durable solutions for refugees. The preferred solution is repatriation -- voluntarily returning home once the necessary conditions are in place. Second is local integration in the country of first asylum. And last is resettlement to a third country, possibly far away from one's native land. Whether returning to your devastated homeland or starting life anew in a strange country, embarking on any one of these solutions also takes real courage. Yet millions of refugees are making these brave choices, rebuilding their homelands or bringing new life, vitality and rich cultural diversity to their adopted communities.
Thus, on this World Refugee Day, let us take time to recognize and draw inspiration from these ordinary people who have shown such extraordinary courage -- the world's millions of refugees and displaced.