Ahead of the World Refugee Day on 20 June, more than 60 film, TV and music stars have joined refugees, faith leaders and the United Nations refugee agency staff to back a petition highlighting the plight of forcibly displaced people.
The #WithRefugees petition aims to gather public support for the growing number of families forced to flee conflict and persecution worldwide, who currently face heightened anti-refugee rhetoric coupled with greater restrictions to asylum, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“We are in a period of deepening conflict and turmoil in the world, which is causing many more people to flee their homes than before,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “It affects and involves us all, and what it needs is understanding, compassion and political will to come together and find real answers for the refugee plight. This has become a defining challenge of our times,” he said.
In 2015, millions of people were newly displaced, adding again to the global refugee and internal displacement totals. Overwhelmingly, it was countries of the developing world that were most affected, but Europe too witnessed dramatic scenes, as hundreds of thousands of people crossed the Mediterranean in search of safety and refuge. Thousands died along the way, according to the agency chief.
“At the same time, there was an extraordinary outpouring of empathy and solidarity, as ordinary people and communities opened their homes and their hearts to refugees, and some countries have welcomed new arrivals even while already hosting large numbers of refugees,” he explained and added: “The #WithRefugees campaign and petition aims to amplify those voices of welcome and show that the world stands with refugees.”
The petition calls on Governments to ensure that every refugee child gets an education, every refugee family has somewhere safe to live, and every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.
Among those celebrities are UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, best-selling author Khaled Hosseini and supermodel and former refugee Alek Wek.
Others lending support include faith leaders Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Venerable V. Vajiramedhi, as well as actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Ben Stiller and Dame Helen Mirren and singers Juanes, Mika, Maher Zain and Babaa Maal.
“We are in the middle of a catastrophic displacement crisis that has already uprooted millions of innocent families, and seen too many lose their lives trying to reach safety,” said Ms. Blanchett.
“The ultimate solution is political – we need peace and stability. But whilst we wait for that, we – as people with a voice – can and must play our part,” she stressed, urging all countries to take a shared responsibility for ensuring refugees have protection, shelter and the chance to live a productive life. “If enough of us stand together, we will be heard.”
“Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, with the same hopes and ambitions as us; except that a twist of fate has bound their lives to a global refugee crisis on an unprecedented scale,” said Mr. Hosseini.
The petition will be delivered to the UN Headquarters in New York, ahead of September’s High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants.