The global theme for this year's World Refugee Day, celebrated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tomorrow, is Home. This is in recognition of the plight of more than 40 million uprooted people around the world, including about 10 million refugees of special concern to the UNHCR. With the simple statement "They took my home but they can't take my future", the UNHCR wants to highlight the plight of refugees worldwide and recognise their courage and resilience.

The UNHCR helps people find new homes and a new future through resettlement, voluntary repatriation and local integration. Most of the time, and where possible, refugees prefer to return to their home countries. Nonetheless, and with conflict continuing or escalating in so many parts of the world, finding new homes and allowing people to restart their lives has become increasingly difficult.

This year's World Refugee Day aims at highlighting the dilemma of the millions of refugees around the world who are unable to go home. On their behalf, it also seeks to advocate the kind of help they truly need. People are being asked to think about what it means to be one of those suffering millions of individual human beings in search of a new beginning and a new home.

Behind all the statements and statistics about refugees, asylum seekers, the internally-displaced and the stateless are real people with harrowing tales of suffering and loss but also having hope and ambition. The UNHCR believes that a platform is needed for their voices and - when it does not risk their safety or that of their relatives back home - to give a face to these human beings. Through such human stories, people living in peace and comfort can understand why the forcibly-displaced and the stateless deserve compassion and care.

This year's refugee celebration coincides with the 10th anniversary of Malta's Refugees Act, the first asylum-related legislation to be ratified in Malta. This law became the cornerstone of the islands' refugee status determination procedure and refugee protection. Since then, Malta has faced enormous challenges in this area. Its efforts include harnessing the active support of other nations, with the cooperation of the UNHCR, to help the Maltese islands shoulder the burden of providing durable solutions, through a new home and a new future, for hundreds of people who arrive here seeking international protection or solidarity.

As acknowledged by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit here, on account of its geographical position in the heart of the Mediterranean, many immigrants arrive on Malta's shores, some fleeing from situations of violence and persecution, others in search of better conditions of life.

While recognising the difficulties that welcoming a large number of people may cause, difficulties that cannot be solved by any country of first arrival on its own, the Holy Father said he is also confident that, on the strength of its Christian roots and its long and proud history of welcoming strangers, "Malta will endeavour, with the support of other states and international organisations, to come to the aid of those who arrive here and to ensure that their rights be respected".

This is how our nation should continue to plan and move ahead. And in so doing it deserves the assistance of states that proclaim to share the same sentiments, especially within the European Union.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us