#WithRefugees: World Refugee Day and the Olympics

June 20th is World Refugee Day, which commemorates “the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees.” Every year the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assigns a theme for World Refugee Day. This year’s theme, #WithRefugees, highlights people, countries, and organizations that assist refugees and asks individuals to publicly declare their support for displaced people.

Brazil has been recognized by the UNHCR for the generous opportunities and support it provides refugees to resettle from war-torn areas. The country provides an expedited visa process for refugees, giving displaced people the opportunity to rebuild their lives after fleeing war.

Not only are refugees resettling in Brazil, but refugee athletes will be at the center of this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This May, 12-year-old Syrian refugee, Hanan Dacka, was given the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch through Brasilia. “I’m not feeling like a refugee. I’m feeling like another Brazilian carrying the torch today, ” Hanan told the UNHCR. Hanan and her family fled Syria and resettled in the city of São Paulo with the help of Brazil’s expedited visa process.

Additionally, on Friday, June 3rd, the International Olympic Committee announced ten refugee athletes will be competing in the Rio Olympics under the name “Team Refugees.” The team will be the first to walk in the opening ceremony, before Brazil. They will carry the Olympic flag as the Olympic anthem plays during their walk in the procession. The Olympic Committee provided the team coaches and is covering their expenses.

Of the ten athletes competing for Team Refugee, Popole Misenga and Yolande Mabika, are judokas who fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo and found asylum in Brazil, where they have been living for the past three years. In a statement on behalf of the UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, “Their participation in the Olympics is a tribute to the courage and perseverance of all refugees in overcoming adversity and building a better future for themselves and their families.”


By TRF intern, Camila Novo-Viaño