June 21st, 2011
10:00 AM ET

Tenth Annual World Refugee Day

Running. Afraid. Unsure what the next day will bring.

AFP/Getty Images

It's the plight of millions of people around the world. Refugees. People who, for whatever reason, feel they have no other option but to flee their homelands. Whether forced out by persecution or ongoing violence, they often leave reluctantly - abandoning homes and livelihoods - and taking along only as much as they can carry. And if that isn't hard enough, there's usually the added pressure of escaping with the family unit intact, traveling long distances with small children and the elderly, all the while aware the next days may be more challenging than the last.

For many, it's a difficult scenario to imagine. But for the world's nearly 44 million refugees, it's a harsh reality.

Since 2001, the United Nations Refugee Agency has designated June 20 as World Refugee Day, to bring international awareness to those struggling with displacement. The U.N. says the current number of refugees is now at 15-year high - up nearly half a million from last year.

Recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have forced many refugees into bordering countries. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was in Tunisia last Friday urging the international community to step up support for the African nation as it struggles to accommodate an influx of Libyan refugees. So far more than 500,000 have sought refuge in Tunisia from Colonel Gadhafi's regime and other turmoil in Libya. Meanwhile, Turkey has provided support and relief for nearly 10,000 Syrian refugees. They've been flooding to the border to escape violent government crackdowns, which have been escalating since March. Actress Angelina Jolie recently visited the Syria-Turkey border to shed some light on the refugee crisis there in her role as U.N. goodwill ambassador.

Do you think the UNHCR is doing enough to raise awareness? How did your country mark World Refugee Day?

Even though June 20 only comes around once a year, the need for refugee aid lasts year-round. If you want to help, you can start by clicking here.

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