To mark World Refugee Day (20 June), mayors from more than 50 cities around the world are calling on all local authorities and municipalities to join them in welcoming and including refugees in their communities. The announcement follows the release yesterday (19 June) of new figures by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency that show a continuation of a five-year upward trend in the number of people displaced by conflict or persecution worldwide.
In the face of ever higher levels of forced displacement - reflected in the still high number of arrivals of refugees in Europe – European cities, including Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Braga, Brighton, Brussels, Ljubljana, Manchester, Nicosia, Sheffield, Turin, Vienna and Warsaw have joined together to show solidarity at this crucial time for people forced to flee.
Constantinos Yiorkadjis, mayor of Nicosia, said:
"On this Word Refugee Day, the city of Nicosia embraces the 'Journey of Solidarity'. Today we stand for refugee rights, we stand in support of all those people who have been forced to flee their homes. We feel this is what humanity dictates but more so this is what our recent history demands, when not long ago we had to flee our homes. Cities face common challenges but working together can find answers towards a better future for all."
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, praised the communities and individuals that are a positive force for inclusion:
“Cities #WithRefugees sends an important message of solidarity with refugees. With the majority of refugees now living in towns and cities, mayors and community leaders play a critical role in mobilising support, providing services and opportunities, and helping refugees become members of communities. As we work towards a Global Compact on Refugees, it is imperative to recognize and support of local communities to welcome refugees.”
The Cities #WithRefugees statement also highlights the increasingly important role cities have taken on in hosting refugees. Nearly two out of three refugees settle in urban areas whose residents are often the first to help them upon arrival.
Solidarity Cities, EUROCITIES’ initiative on the management of refugees in Europe, has joined UNHCR #WithRefugees initiative. Solidarity Cities promotes city-to-city capacity building and learning to improve policy on integration, and gets cities to commit to hosting refugees.
At the global level – UN member states have been developing a Global Compact on Refugees to transform the way the international community responds to refugee crises and secure more predictable and equitable support for refugees and the countries and communities which host them. Cities have a vital role to play.
The Cities #WithRefugees initiative is part of UNHCR’s ongoing #WithRefugees campaign, launched in 2016 to support the development of the global compact on refugees. To date the campaign has almost 2 million signatures to its core petition and approaching 19 million actions in support of refugees.
The mayors are encouraging other cities to join the global effort and sign on.