Refugee Week 2022: theme, when is World Refugee Day, how to get involved and definition of a refugee explained

Refugee Week features a whole host of events that are being held around the UK as well as online

Mid-June marks the beginning of Refugee Week, a week-long event that has been held since 1998 that strives to celebrate and educate about the lives of refugees and those seeking sanctuary through a programme of arts, sports and creative campaigns.

This is everything you need to know - and how you can get involved.

What is a refugee?

The United Nations Refugee Agency UK (UNHCR) defines refugees as people who “have fled war, violence, conflict or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country”.

Going a step further, the 1951 Refugee Convention is a key legal document which defines a refugee as: “Someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owning to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Children belonging to Afghan refugees living in Pakistan sit outside a shop on the outskirts of Lahore on June 19, 2022, on the eve of World Refugee Day (Photo by ARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the UNHCR, as of mid-2021, in the UK there were 135,912 refugees, 83,489 pending asylum cases and 3,968 stateless persons.

Since 2016, Iran has been the top nationality claiming asylum in the UK, with 9,800 applications in 2021.

The UNHCR states that, in the year ending September 2021, the top five countries of nationality for asylum applications (from main applicants) were Iran, Eritrea, Albania, Iraq and Syria.

What is Refugee Week - when is it?

Refugee Week is a UK wide, week long festival that aims to celebrate the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and those seeking sanctuary.

It was first founded in 1998 and has been held every year starting on World Refugee Day on 20 June, with Refugee Week becoming a growing global movement.

The official Refugee Week (RW) website states: “Through a programme of arts, cultural, sports and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety.

A woman protests against the Rwanda deportation flight EC-LZO Boeing 767 at Boscombe Down Air Base, on June 14, 2022 in Boscombe Down (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

“Refugee Week is a platform for people who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives and creative work on their own terms.”

It explains that the organisation’s vision is for “refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution”.

This year, Refugee Week will run from Monday 20 to Sunday 26 June.

What is the 2022 theme?

Each year, Refugee Week explores a specific theme, with the theme for 2022 being “healing”.

RW explains that healing means “recovering from a painful experience or situation, so that we can continue to live” and that “no-one understands this better than those who have lost their homes and had to build new lives from scratch”.

People protest against the UK deportation flights to Rwanda outside the Home Office on June 13, 2022 in London, England (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

It adds: “Those going through the asylum system also know that healing is an ongoing process, made harder by poverty, housing difficulties and the threat of being detained or deported.

“Asking for change, so that refugees can truly feel safe, is an act of care.”

Refugee Week 2022 is asking participants to imagine a world where “healing replaces harm, and care becomes our shared currency”.

How can I get involved?

There are lots of ways you can get involved with Refugee Week, with events taking place all around the UK, and online as well.

You can see the full calendar of events being held over the week on the Refugee Week website.

If you want to hold your own event for Refugee Week 2022, you can get your own event organiser pack and social media pack from the Refugee Week website.

You can also get your hands on a children and young people’s pack as well.

People protest outside the Home Office after the Court of Appeal rejected a legal bid to stop a Home Office flight taking asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

If you’re wanting to get involved, but you’re not sure where to start, Refugee Week is inviting everyone os all ages to take part in doing one (or more) of eight of the following simple acts, inspired by the theme of healing:

  • Send a message: “What message would you like to send in solidarity with people seeking safety, such as those fleeing violence in Afghanistan or Ukraine? Share your message online using #SendaMessage and #SimpleActs, and together let’s flood social media with kindness and solidarity.”
  • Share a dish: “Food can say welcome or hold precious memories. Food says we are neighbours, friends, or chosen family. We are still alive, and we can feel joy. Food is healing. Food is home.”
  • Have a chat: “One thing lockdown surely taught us all was how much of a difference a conversation can make. Just saying hello and asking how someone how they are can be all it takes to lift their day.”
  • Watch a film: “Wondering what to watch? Look no further – Moving Worlds by Counterpoints Arts is a special selection of features and shorts with discussion resources, available to screen or watch at home during Refugee Week.”
  • Read a book: “Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, possibly for almost as long as we’ve been able to speak. Stories are a way of making sense of the world and sharing information. They help us better understand other people, and ourselves.” Books about refugees and asylum seekers for children, via Booktrust, and Refugee Week book recommendations, via Waterstones. 
  • Walk together: “We’re thrilled to be teaming up with the Jo Cox Foundation again this year to invite you to take part in The Great Walk Together 2022, in celebration of Refugee Week and the Great Get Together.”
  • Plant a seed: “While you are planting together, we invite you to learn more about climate justice, commit to taking action together, or take a moment to imagine what a greener, more joyful planet might look like for you locally.”
  • Join the movement: “Once June is over, we hope you’ll carry the spirit and energy of Refugee Week with you, and continue to walk alongside people on the move.”