World Refugee Day

According to the UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), it was estimated that by mid-2023, over 110 million individuals worldwide were forcibly displaced, with 40% being children. Approximately 75% of these displaced individuals are hosted in low- and middle-income countries.

What Is World Refugee Day?

According to the UNHCR: “World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on 20 June and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.”

Why World Refugee Day Is Important

World Refugee Day is important because it helps raise awareness about the rights, needs and dreams of refugees, as well as the plight of those fleeing conflict or persecution.

The WHO wants to emphasize the importance of supporting refugees: “Refugees are not merely recipients of care but active contributors to health systems globally, serving as skilled health care professionals, cultural mediators, and advocates for equitable access. Data from the WHO World report on the health of refugees and migrants highlights their impactful roles, emphasizing the importance of including refugees in decision-making processes, which enhances service quality and cultural competence.”

CHV Supports Refugees

Covenant House Vancouver’s purpose is to serve all youth with relentless support, absolute respect, and unconditional love. We help youth experiencing homelessness, and protect and safeguard all youth in need.

The percentage of refugee youth we serve has increased over the past two years from 3% to 20%.

Newcomers are arriving from all over the world, but over the last year (January 2023 – January 2024), the majority are arriving from the following regions:

  • Afghanistan 35%
  • Middle East 16%
  • India, Pakistan, Bangladesh 15%
  • Africa 11%

Challenges that newcomer youth may be facing:

  • Language barrier — either English as a second language or limited English
  • Youth may not have legal status to work
  • If they work, youth may be financially supporting family in another country
  • Youth may experience separation from family or family breakdown
  • Youth have often experienced trauma as part of the experiences that led to them seek refugee status as well as trauma from in navigating that process
  • Youth experience cultural differences including with food, religion, customs

Newcomer/refugee youth bring a lot to the table!

Frontline staff share what newcomer youth bring with them when they arrive at CHV — resiliency, passion, determination, and ideas on how to make our services and society more inclusive.

Frontline staff say that:

  • Newcomer youth have a strong determination to succeed — they juggle multiple priorities such as working part time, learning English, and working on immigration-related matters
  • They often have a lot of diverse/inspirational ideas of how to improve CHV’s services such as having a “word of the day” in program, so newcomers learning English can develop a shared vocabulary
  • They tend to have strong community and family ties. The Covenant House attachment model of care really works for them as they value having these relationships
  • These youth are very good at networking, and are resourceful and creative in how they navigate the housing and employment market
  • They maintain a positive mindset despite the adversity and stressors that they are dealing with on a daily basis
  • Many have strong educational backgrounds and aspirations
  • They are responsible and reliable — many have had to learn to navigate health care, complex government systems, and educational systems for their families, including their own parents and younger siblings
  • If given the opportunity, these youth have a lot of entrepreneurial ideas—many of these ideas would have a significant benefit to society such as how to improve accessibility for those with disabilities, or language barriers
  • They openly share about their culture with others and enrich our understanding of the world
  • Newcomer/refugee youth tend to maintain independence after leaving our services

Today, We Celebrate World Refugee Day at CHV

Today, at CHV, youth will be learning about, and celebrating, World refugee Day.

To help support the understanding around the importance of this day, a youth worker has created an educational poster. There will be posters for youth to decorate the posters in a way that’s meaningful to them, along with including any quotes or words that they wish to share to express their feelings. There will be a variety of games including one about words of resiliency.

There will be cultural snacks available as well as a screening of the movie The Breadwinner.

How are you celebrating/experiencing World Refugee Day? Follow us on Twitter @CovenantHouseBC, on Instagram @covenanthousebc, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and on TikTok and share in the comments.