World Refugee Day

Thursday, June 20, 2013

By Alexandra Zakreski

Today is World Refugee Day, an occasion to draw awareness to the plight of those forced to flee their homes due to threats of persecution, conflict, and violence. Established by the United Nations in 2001, this year’s World Refugee Day is dedicated to recognizing the burden of war that is placed upon families. Oftentimes, families are separated in the escape from war-torn regions, and for this reason the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is encouraging the public to give donations that will go towards reuniting refugee families and ensuring that they are given adequate shelter. As noted by The Globe and Mail, the number of refugees has risen drastically in the past year, in large part due to the crisis in Syria.

On World Refugee Day, CJFE would also like to draw attention to the cases of journalists living in exile, who have been driven out of their home countries by threats directly resulting from their work. A report, released yesterday, by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) highlights the impossible choice facing many journalists around the world between exercising their right to free expression and becoming a target for violence. In certain countries, particularly Mexico, journalists not only fear attack, but must also contend with impunity on the part of their attackers. Whether it is threats, assault, or even murder, violence against journalists serves to strangle free expression, and when these journalists flee their home they leave behind a gap in investigative reporting. Such reporting is essential to the fight for healthy democracy.

In light of this year’s theme of familial impact, CPJ’s report also highlights the effect of forced exile on the families of journalists who are left behind or must start over. The problem of finding employment as a journalist in a new place is particularly acute, as only one-fifth of journalists in forced exile are able to find similar work.

CJFE’s Journalists in Distress Fund provides humanitarian assistance to journalists whose lives and wellbeing are threatened due to their profession, with financial support going to lawyers’ fees for journalists in detention and medical expenses, among other things. Since the fund’s creation, CJFE has disbursed over $215,000 to journalists imperiled in their line of work, a great many cases of which have been refugees or members of the press seeking refugee status.

World Refugee Day Resources

APA | UN Secretary General issues message on World Refugee Day

CPJ | Special Report: Journalists in Exile 2013

The Globe and Mail | World Refugee Day puts refugees’ plight in spotlight

The Huffington Post | World Refugees Day: Giving a Better Reception to Those Fleeing Their Homes

rabble | Why World Refugee Day is important

Toronto Star | Refugee crisis reached “unseen” levels in 2012: UN

UNHCR | World Refugee Day 2013

United Nations News Centre | War drives number of forcibly displaced worldwide to 18-year high, says UN report