What is Refugee Week?

World Refugee Day is 20 June, and every year the UK celebrates Refugee Week around this date. 

This programme of cultural events, sport, community arts, and education highlights refugees’ unique contributions to national and local culture. It also aims to create dialogue and understanding about why people flee their homeland in search of safety and seek asylum abroad.  

By holding lots of different, fun events throughout the country, Refugee Week brings asylum seekers together with other members of the general public. Film screenings, football matches, public talks, and theatre performances – these are just some of the events you can take part in over the course of the week. Refugee Week is an umbrella festival, so if you have an idea for an event, there are plenty of ways to get involved.

Refugee Week was established in 1988 to counter negative depictions of refugees in the media, and to overcome community objections. The events and educational opportunities of the programme are now an annual highlight for people all over the country. It is operated by Counterpoints Arts in partnership with UNHCR, the British Red Cross, the National Education Union, Refugee Action, Oxfam, and many other national and international organisations.  

The guiding principles of Refugee Week 2021

More than anything, Refugee Week aims to showcase the talents and contributions of refugees. While no one should feel like they need to prove themselves, it’s important to give people the space to demonstrate their unique skills and stories.

It's open to everyone

Everyone can take part, and organisers aim to remove all barriers to participation. 

There is a bigger 'us'

While everyone has their own experiences and differing access to power and resources, everyone can come together to create an interconnected ‘us.’ 

There is power in the arts

Arts and cultural events can help people understand other perspectives and give them insight into refugees’ experiences. 

A platform for stories

Refugee Week provides a platform for people to share their unique stories.  


Whenever possible, leadership on refugee initiatives should come from people who have relevant lived experience.  

A diverse group

Refugees are not a single entity every refugee has their own experience based on their age, gender, class, race, and sexuality. No one narrative speaks to their diverse experiences.

Refugee Week 2021: Together we heal, learn and shine

Together we can achieve anything.  

For World Refugee Day 2021, UNHCR is focusing on the power of inclusion. 

The shared experience of COVID-19 has showed us that we only succeed if we stand together. We have all had to do our part to keep each other safe and despite the challenges, refugees and displaced people have stepped up.  

Given the chance, refugees will continue to contribute to a stronger, safer and more vibrant world. This year, UNHCR and partners call for greater inclusion of refugees in health systems, schools and sport. Only by working together can we recover from the pandemic. 

These are UNHCR’s guiding principles behind World Refugee Day 2021… 

Together we heal

The world can’t overcome COVID-19 if it overlooks refugees, because no one is safe until everyone is safe. We need to ensure that people forced to flee have access to vaccines, care, medicine and psychological support, like everyone else. 

Together we learn

We all benefit when everyone has access to education. We are calling for the creation of scholarships and education opportunities for displaced youth. We also call for greater access to digital education for refugee students.

Together we shine

Sport is a great way to heal, develop and grow, especially for people fleeing conflict or persecution. We call for greater support to refugee sport programmes. We also encourage all sport fans to support the Refugee Olympic and Paralympic Teams that will compete in the Tokyo games. 

To celebrate this year’s Refugee Week, UK for UNHCR has a whole host of activities. Visit our Refugee Week 2021 page to find out more.  

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