World Refugee Day Statement 2024

Main Image
three children walking down gravel ally

Image source: Julie Ricard 

On June 20, we observe World Refugee Day, a moment to reflect on the struggles and resilience of refugees around the globe and to reaffirm our commitment to their rights and dignity.

The UNHCR reports that by the end of 2024, the number of refugees will have exceeded 63 million, with an additional 110 million individuals forcibly displaced due to conflict, persecution, and environmental disasters. These ongoing crises highlight the urgent need for a compassionate and coordinated global response.

This year, we must continue to draw attention to the ongoing and escalating conflict in Gaza, which has caused the forced displacement of 1.7 million Palestinians – nearly 80% of the total population. Palestinian families are in dire need of international support and protection. The humanitarian crisis in the region underscores the necessity for a durable and lasting peace solution that ensures safety, dignity, and the right to return for all displaced Palestinians.

The global community is witnessing an alarming trend of hostility towards marginalized groups. In Sudan, as conflict continues to devastate the nation, more than 8 million people have been forced to flee, half of whom are children. Sudan now faces the world's largest child displacement crisis.

Tragically, many countries have responded to the influx of refugees by implementing restrictive and exclusionary policies. Wealthier nations often prioritize political interests over humanitarian obligations, erecting physical and legal barriers that prevent those in need from accessing safety – rather than addressing the root causes that are causing people to flee their homes in the first place 

Within our union, many of our members have arrived in Canada as refugees. Our Ontario Regional Director, Samia Hashi, and her family immigrated to Canada in 1991, arriving as Eritrean refugees. Upon arrival, her family found community support and solidarity, in addition to the rights and freedoms that her parents had sought for Samia and her siblings. I encourage you to read Samia’s story to better understand the realities facing refugees.

Unifor's commitment to solidarity transcends borders. We stand firmly with refugees and asylum seekers in their pursuit of safety and a better life. Refugees are workers, our members, and contribute to our union, workplaces and the fabric of our society.

Through our Social Justice Fund (SJF), we continue to support global organizations like the UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders, working on the ground providing direct support to asylum seekers and people on the move.  In response to the conflicts in Gaza and the Sudan, the SJF has made contributions to support emergency humanitarian relief efforts in partnership with Save the Children Canada and the Islamic Relief Canada. Our partnerships with community-based organizations like the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, Action Réfugiés Montréal, and Romero House are also helping refugees to rebuild their lives in safety in Canada.

Canada must enhance its efforts to protect the rights of asylum seekers and uphold its commitment to human rights by adhering to international laws. 

Together, we can build a more just and compassionate world.

In solidarity,
Lana Payne
Unifor National President