World Refugee Day fell the day before a vote in Sweden's parliament on laws which are likely to make family reunification more difficult.
UNHCR's regional representative for the Baltic and Nordic countries, Pia Prytz-Phiri, tells The Local: “Restricting family reunification is of great concern for the UNHCR. It’s very hard to start your life without having your family around you.”
World Refugee Day is intended to “celebrate the courage and resilience of refugees” and to offer “a glimmer of hope that we may find a solution to the crisis”, she says.
“This year there's very little hope around, there are 65 million refugees around the world, a number which has doubled over the last 20 years,” she continues.
But she adds that while some countries have made it more difficult for refugees to enter or get asylum, there have also been “millions of people who have helped with water and food, and some who offered their own homes. People who don’t see refugees as threats to themselves, as terrorists, or coming to take their jobs.”
“2016 is a very important year for the UNHCR, a year when we have to make world leaders affirm their commitment to safeguarding the international laws that provide protection for refugees,” Prytz-Phiri explains.
“It’s a year when we need to understand that humanitarian assistance alone is not enough to provide solutions for the refugees. We are asking the world leaders to act now.”
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