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World Refugee Day

There are presently some 65.6 million refugees worldwide. The majority of them have fled from violent conflicts, wars, or serious violations of human rights. More than half are children. Only around six percent of all refugees are in Europe – most live in the Middle East and Africa, often in neighboring countries and border regions of their homelands.

The United Nations has launched a campaign and petition entitled “Stand #WithRefugees”, calling on the world to take joint solidary responsibility for refugees. Refugees all over the world need protection, accommodations, medical care, education, and above all prospects for the future. Many families have been torn apart – even across continental borders – and have to be reunited.

Floriane Hohenberg, director of the International Tracing Service (ITS): “‘Refugees are survivors who need now our protection, so that they can build a future for themselves. The correspondence files of the International Tracing Service from 1946 up to today bear witness to the fact that care provided by the Allied forces in the aftermath of World War II enabled millions of survivors of Nazi crimes to start a new life in a new country and become appreciated members of their societies’.”

Number of refugees continues to grow

In 2016, the number of persons who had fled or been forcefully displaced reached the highest peak since the UN refugee agency UNHCR began recording it. In terms of the world’s population, this means that one in every 113 persons is a refugee.

In 2000, the UN General Assembly proclaimed June 20th World Refugee Day as a way of drawing attention to the particular plight of refugees. Since 2001, the fiftieth anniversary of the Geneva Refugee Convention, events and campaigns have been taking place all over the world on June 20th. With the hashtag #WithRefugees, the United Nations is calling for solidarity with refugees.

Documents on displacement and emigration

In 1945, the Allies likewise faced a humanitarian challenge in liberated Europe: some 13 million so-called Displaced Persons (DPs) had been forced to leave their native countries on account of Nazi terror and were in need of care. Among them were millions of former forced laborers, deportees and concentration camp survivors as well as a large number of unaccompanied children and teens. Many remained in the Allied DP camps for years before finally being able to emigrate or return to their homelands.

Numerous documents in the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive offer information about how the Allies provided the DPs with accommodations, food, clothing and health care, and about the goals of these persons themselves. The first challenges the ITS faced were the search for missing victims of Nazi persecution and the clarification of the fates of those who had died. Since 2013, the original documents in the ITS archive have been listed in the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Register.

ITS voices: staff members talk about why they support the United Nations petition

“Every human being needs a safe place to call home. I stand #WithRefugees.” Kathrin Flor

“Refugees don’t cause crises. People become refugees because they try to escape crises.” Christian Groh

"Offering refuge is our response to (civil) wars. Having refuge is a human right. This is the history of boat people” Le Nguyen

“My wife came to Germany in the early 1990s as the child of a refugee family. We’ve meanwhile been happily married for more than thirteen years! Let’s stand together to support refugees and give them a chance in our society!” Thomas Oeckei

“Every one of us can be forced to leave our homeland at any time; it’s not a matter of free will. Often it’s the very last means of saving one’s own life and those of one’s children from war and terror. Every human being has a right to life, freedom and personal safety.” Anna Meier-Osinski.

“Refugees all over the world need our support and protection.” Olaf Schneider 

To the UNHCR petition: www.unhcr.org/withrefugees/