Each year, the world observes World Day of Migrants and Refugees on September 26 or on the last Sunday of September. It is a day designated yearly by the United Nations to commemorate and honor people who have been forced to flee their homes, people who have escaped conflict, seen adversity, and, against all odds, forged their way to find greener pastures in places far away from their homes.
This day has been designated to recognize the courage and fortitude of these people and heighten our level of empathy and understanding for the plight and difficult decisions many immigrants have had to make. The activities carried out on this day are to support and create opportunities for immigrants and refugees.
History of World Day of Migrants and Refugees
Every year since 1914, the church has been celebrating World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The inception of this day can be traced to just a few months before the outbreak of the First World War. After being moved by the outcry of millions of Italians migrating abroad due to duress, Pope Pius X called on everyone to join hands together and pray for migrants. Benedict who was succeeded only a few months later was moved by Pope Pius’ sensitivity and carried out some practical initiatives. During this time a letter titled “The pain and concerns” was sent to the Italian Diocesan Ordinaries with a request to establish an annual day of awareness to spiritually and economically support the pastoral work of Italian immigrants.
In 2019, the number of immigrants all over the world had reached a staggering 272 million, which was 51 million more than it was in 2010. Many people left their home country for several reasons such as; seeking a better education for themselves, in search of better and more profitable jobs, and to escape unjust prosecution or war.
Upon arrival to the foreign land they hope to call their new home, they meet different challenges due to their limited resources. They often have limited access to clean water, electricity, warm shelter, and health facilities.
Today is a day dedicated to expressing concern to many who face challenges related to immigration and is also a day to recognize our foreign brothers and sisters’ journeys and shine a light on their stories whichever way we can.
World Day of Migrants and Refugees timeline
Shortly before the outbreak of the first world war, Pope Pius X calls for all Christians to pray for migrants.
This year, particular churches are called upon to decide a specific date to celebrate the day.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant People calls for the day to be extended to refugees.
Due to Covid-19 and other afflictions such as natural disasters, wars, and terror, the number of refugees reaches over 270 million globally.
World Day of Migrants and Refugees FAQs
Where do refugees come from?
People are seeking refuge from all over the world. However, statistics show that 70% of all refugees originate from five countries; Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. In these countries, war and conflict are the major reasons why people flee.
Do they return home?
Contrary to what many people may think, many refugees return home, though in recent years fewer have returned to their national country either because they started a new life in their host country or it is still unsafe for them to return.
Do the words ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’ mean the same thing?
No, they don’t. Even though recently people tend to use the words interchangeably, especially in the media. The main difference is choice. A migrant is someone who chose to move, while a refugee is someone who was forced to.
How to Observe World Day of Migrants and Refugees
Get informed about the plights of refugees and immigrants. Find out about their challenges and how organizations are trying to help them.
If you live in a community where there are internally displaced camps or refugee homes, reach out to them. Today is a good day to get some of your peers together and pay them a visit.
Make a donation
Nothing is too big or too small, many immigrants and refugees have a limited amount of access to the bare minimum such as warm clothes, toiletries, e.t.c. You can also purchase items that are urgently needed and you can donate them.
5 Important Facts About Migrants And Refugees
Who are they?
These are people outside their country of nationality who are unable to return due to either fear or persecution for their race, religion, political views, or social group.
They are mostly underage
According to statistics, it has been estimated that more than 50% of refugees and migrants are mostly teenagers or below the age of 18.
Churches often house refugees
There is a decree that was made many years ago that people seeking refuge from persecution can find a safe place in churches.
They are often our neighbors
A good 80% of migrants are often hosted by their neighboring countries, which are often poor themselves; only 16% of the world’s refugees are hosted in developed parts of the world.
Many have returned home
Due to the conflicts in Southwest Asia, millions of people fled their countries; but over the past decade, approximately six million refugees have moved back.
Why World Day of Migrants and Refugees is Important
It promotes inclusion
It is estimated that over 60% of the world’s refugees live better lives in the cities or towns they relocate to. So why not give our fellow humans a hand when they need it.
It celebrates human rights
Often refugees are treated poorly in countries that are hosting them, maybe not necessarily by the system but by the people. It has been declared in the human rights treaty that countries are obligated to assist those seeking protection.
It highlights a humanitarian crisis
In the past 20 years, the number of people seeking asylum has increased exponentially. Due to serious reasons such as war, violence, or conflict, in 2018 alone there were almost 80 million displaced persons, which we believe requires a global call to action.
World Day of Migrants and Refugees dates