Maine celebrated World Refugee Day in style this year. World Refugee Day is an annual international commemoration that honors the strength, courage, and resilience of forcibly displaced migrants around the world and aims to bring attention to their plight.
Displaced people include refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people. According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), this year there are 70.8 million displaced people in the world.
Refugees are those who have been forced to flee their homes to escape war, violence, or persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. There are 25.9 million refugees this year, which is the largest number ever recorded.
An asylum seeker is someone who has fled his or her own country to seek safety in another country. There are 3.5 million asylum-seekers world-wide.
Internally displaced people include those who have fled natural disasters or internal strife, but have not crossed national boundaries. There are 41.3 internally displaced people worldwide.
According to the UNHCR, 1 in every 108 people globally is either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee.
The State House’s first-ever observance of World Refugee Day took place in the Hall of Flags May 21. Representative Rachel Talbot Ross, who serves House District 40, read a resolution at the event naming May 21 and June 20 as World Refugee Day in Maine.
Lewiston’s celebration took place on June 20 at Simard-Payne Park. Southern Maine World Refugee Day was celebrated on June 22 at Westbrook Middle School.
Governor Mills, who hosted the Blaine House’s first-ever celebration of World Refugee Day on June 23, marked the occasion by reading the words engraved on the Statue of Liberty to her guests.