World Refugee Day 2019

World Refugee Day 2019


Today is World Refugee Day. The EU has a long-standing commitment to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, those who are forced to flee and therefore leave their homes behind. To read more about the EU's commitment see the Joint Statement.

Development assistance is a key aspect of this commitment. Here are some examples of how our assistance is helping refugees around the world.


Santiago just turned 18. At his young age, he fled violence in Honduras and came to Guatemala by himself. He found safety at Refugio de la Niñez, a UNHCR supported shelter where unaccompanied children who flee their countries arrive to. He now looks towards a bright future. He is currently doing an internship at the Pan American Hotel in Guatemala, and hopes to be able to go to college. In Refugio de la Niñez, he was able to attend an education and local integration programme, whereby refugee and asylum-seeking children who turn 18 have the opportunity to remain in the shelter for an immersion into the adult life.

In Guatemala, Refugio de la Niñez is the only shelter in the North of Central America that provides a specialized shelter and solutions for unaccompanied and separated children who have fled from their countries. Thanks to  the support from donors like the EU, it is a safe space to be children, to grow and develop their skills in dignity.


“When I came to the shelter, I had the opportunity of attending a lot of courses in baking, cake decoration. It has been a blessing because I have been able to study the entire time I have been here in Guatemala.


“The family I have made here at the shelter has given me a reason to fight each day, to be stronger, a better person and to give the best of me.”



Katisi Irene (30) - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement

"I would miss being with my friends in the market"

The Support Programme for Refugees and Host Communities in Northern Uganda focuses on ensuring peaceful co-existence between host communities and refugees in the refugee-hosting districts of Northern Uganda. It aims to improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods, mitigating conflicts and increasing access to education.


Fungo Godfrey (50) - Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement

"I would miss chatting with my best friend who is South Sudanese surrounded by this environment"

As of the 31 January 2019, there were a total of 4.15 million displaced South Sudanese throughout the world. Uganda hosts over 808,000 of these, especially in the northern districts of Yumbe, Adjumani and Arua.



A group of young Afghan women participated in a photography training course in Mashhad, the Islamic Republic of Iran. In an effort to enhance refugees’ access to employment opportunities UNHCR, hand in hand with the Government of Iran’s institution responsible for vocational training, the Technical and Vocational Training Organization (TVTO), is implementing a diverse portfolio of skills training courses in over 50 professions including photography, welding, mechanics, and tailoring.



Eight-year-old Halima Akhter is a bright young student attending an EU and UNICEF supported learning centre in Kutupalong refugee camp. She is mature beyond her years, having experienced more in her short life, than any child ever should.

Over one and a half years’ ago, Halima’s family fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in fear for their lives. During their escape, Halima witnessed her father being brutally killed, an experience she longs to forget but cannot erase.

Halima lives with her mother and four siblings in Kutupalong refugee camp in south-eastern Bangladesh. Home to almost one million people, this is one of the largest and most densely populated refugee camps in the world.

The memories of their traumatic journey continue to cause her pain.

“I used to hide when I was crying because I knew it would upset my brothers and sisters too,” says Halima.

Shahnaz Begum is Halima’s teacher at the Learning Centre. She notes the progress Halima is making and the difference education brings to a child.

“Learning Centre’s play a vital role in children’s lives in the refugee camps. It gives them a sense of stability, they can establish routines and strong friendships with others. We provide a protective and joyful environment for them to learn, they establish friendships with other children and develop a sense of belonging. Rohingya children are very bright, you can see how quickly they learn,” says Shahnaz.

She teachers English, Burmese, mathematics and life-skills to Halima and the other students attending the level one class.

“We also play games and teach rhymes to help the children learn. We try to make the classes as interactive as we can,” she adds.

As time wears on, Halima is making progress. She is growing in confidence and attending her learning centre regularly.

“I love to learn Burmese language, if I return to Myanmar I can use it. We used to have a nice house with a garden in my village where I used to play. Here in the learning centre, I am happy I can meet to play,” says Halima.

 “As long as I am here in the centre, I can forget my sadness. I think of the incident less when I am at school, than when I am at home with my family. I miss my father a lot. My teacher helps me to forget the sorrow. I learn new subjects, I can play here with friends and I like to draw colourful flowers,” says Halima.   

Shahnaz meets with Halima’s mother regularly to discuss her progress in the classroom and to ensure she gets the extra any support she requires.

Children can access psycho-social support and referral services through their learning centre if they face difficult situations at home.

Learning centres supported by the EU and UNICEF are creating safe, enabling environments for children to learn and acquire the knowledge and skills they need for the future. They also help Rohingya children carve out time and space to find friendship and joy.

More information

European Union External Action Service - Protecting the rights of the most vulnerable