June 20th was World Refugee Day, and many people around the world joined together in support, including the City of Yokohama. An international day designated by the United Nations, World Refugee Day honors refugees around the world who have been forced to flee their homes. This year, Yokohama joined many other cities around Japan and the world in celebrating the strength and courage of refugees on June 20th in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and joined the UNHCR “Cities #WithRefugees” global campaign to raise awareness for and support the plight of refugees.
The Cities #WithRefugees campaign is a network created by UNHCR, inviting cities and local authorities around the world to come together to promote inclusion, togetherness, and support for refugees. Yokohama City Mayor Takeharu Yamanaka officially signed a statement to join the campaign on June 19, 2023, becoming the 10th city in Japan to join. As of June 12, 2023, 237 cities across 55 countries are now members of the campaign. The Cities #WithRefugees campaign will provide avenues for member cities to share their experiences and stories of support for local refugees, to contribute to better shared knowledge of how cities—the settling place for a vast majority of refugees—can act as models for how to provide access to housing, healthcare, safe living, and all other aspects of life that refugees can struggle with.
As one small step to raise awareness following the signature of this declaration, Yokohama City Hall joined other landmarks around Japan in lighting up in UNHCR blue for World Refugee Day on June 20th. In addition, in order to deepen understanding of global issues such as refugees, Yokohama is planning to hold panel exhibitions in collaboration with UNHCR.
Yokohama City, one of the UN’s first designated Peace Messenger Cities since 1987, has a long history of engaging in global projects to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the international community. Most recently, since 2022 Yokohama City has been focusing on accepting and supporting refugees from Ukraine and providing local humanitarian assistance as support for our sister city of Odesa in Ukraine.
Yokohama City also has a history of working with the UNHCR directly. In October of last year, Ritsu Nacken, Deputy Representative of UNHCR in Japan, took the podium at Yokohama City’s International Peace Lecture titled “Refugees of the World and UNHCR’s Assistance”. The following month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Yokohama himself to observe the city’s efforts to support Ukrainian refugees.
As a member of the Cities #WithRefugees campaign, Yokohama City commits to continuing its work to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, develop inclusive communities, and work with citizens on ways to raise awareness of global issues related to peace.