The following blog post was written by Tahira Ebrahim, a Centre Liaison Officer at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.
World Refugee Day, observed every June 20, is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. It can be difficult to truly understand the experiences of refugees, particularly as we reflect on their lives and circumstances on World Refugee Day.
According to the United Nations (UN), there are 16.7 million refugees who have left their homes in order to escape persecution, poverty, or political instability. Their journeys to reach safer areas require that they give most of their money away to agents and human smugglers, without any assurance of their safety, well-being, or actual arrival at their chosen destination. Often, family members are separated during the journey and many are not reunited.
Their journey to travel to safer lands, where they are accepted, does not always end when they arrive to a new country. Refugees can face discrimination, experience abuse and violence, and may need to live illegally within their destination countries. Integrating and establishing themselves in a new country can be just as difficult as living in their original host country.
For this year's World Refugee Day, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) encourages the public to get to know the individual or family behind the word "refugee".
Explore these resources to learn more about the lives of refugees from around the world:
- Caritas France is addressing the gap in understanding, through the production of their game, “On the Road with Migrants.” Although only currently available in French, other versions - including English - will soon be made available. The game offers insight into the real day to day obstacles that a refugee might face and exposes the often hidden realities of millions of refugees.
- World Refugee Day: features 15 refugee stories as well as videos from UNHCR high profile supporters
- Tracks: a powerful storytelling website, that features stories from refugees and aid workers from around the world
- Stories from Refugees: stories from refugees who now live in Canada
While systemic barriers and discrimination are significant factors to challenge, we encourage you to read or listen to the stories of refugees and see how you can make a difference.
 United Nations (2013, December). International Migration Report. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. New York: USA Retrieved from: http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html
 Saphiere, Dianne. '"On The Road With Migrants" Game'. Cultural detective blog 2015. Web. 17 June 2015.