UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today launched a major campaign that asks the world to stand together with refugees. In a stunning video message more than 60 global celebrities join with refugees and aid workers to echo the message, “we stand with refugees, please stand with us.” The petition appeals for government action on behalf of the world’s forcibly displaced.
The campaign aims to demonstrate public support for families forced to flee against a backdrop of dramatically increased displacement from conflict and persecution on the one hand, and heightened anti-refugee rhetoric and greater restrictions to asylum on the other. The petition will be delivered in advance of September’s historic UN High-Level Plenary of the General Assembly on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.
Specifically, the petition asks all governments to make sure:
Every refugee child has an education.
Every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
Every refugee can work or learn skills to make a positive contribution to their community.
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett, who appears in the video from Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, spoke about her support for the campaign: “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. 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. We must demand that all countries 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.”
Fellow UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors joining Blanchett in the video include author Khaled Hosseini and supermodel and former refugee Alek Wek. Others lending support include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and faith leaders Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Venerable V.Vajiramedhi and actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, Ben Stiller, Dame Helen Mirren as well as singers Juanes, Mika, Maher Zain and Babaa Maal.
“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 Khaled Hosseini. “Together, in solidarity with refugees, we must demand that world leaders take collective responsibility for finding fair, lasting solutions to this crisis. Together, we must ensure humanity and compassion triumph over fear and intolerance.”
The number of people forced to flee their homes by conflict and persecution is now at its highest since the end of the Second World War. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi spoke about why UNHCR was making such a public call to support refugees. ‘’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 Grandi. “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”.
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. 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.
The #WithRefugees campaign and petition aims to amplify those voices of welcome and show that the world stands with refugees. The campaign seeks to mobilize massive audiences, creating the largest-ever petition to support refugee cause. The petition can be signed here.
Video message can be viewed here.
PHOTOS: © UNHCR/Jordi Matas [ May 02, 2015 – Lebanon. Cate Blanchett’s visit.]