PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In an effort to honor refugees, public officials and community leaders have put together events in the area.
On June 20 and 21, people will join together to celebrate World Refugee Day — which was first held globally in 2001 – to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, Oregon State Senator Kayse Jama (D-Portland) said.
The celebration will kick off with the second annual Run, Walk, Play for Refugees as part of the RefuTees Run for Refugees national campaign at 8:30 a.m. at Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland.
The event will also take place at 6 p.m. at Riverfront City Park, also known as the Gerry Frank Amphitheater in Salem, and at 6 p.m. at the Beaverton City Library.
“Refugees have been an integral part of Beaverton’s story,” said Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty. “We’re grateful to be part of a coordinated statewide effort to recognize World Refugee Day this year, an opportunity to show our values as a welcoming city and celebrate the contributions and resilience of refugees who have helped build this community. Beaverton was declared a Welcoming City in 2015 and we’ve been growing in what it means to live out that commitment ever since. This is one such opportunity to do that visibly.”
The celebration will continue Tuesday, June 21 with a World Refugee Day Virtual Symposium, featuring the voices of public officials, nonprofit and state agency leaders, and immigrant and refugees’ advocates through a series of panels.
“As global refugee numbers are rising due to wars and regional conflicts, we must commit to supporting these vulnerable populations and be a welcoming state for those who seek safe havens,” said Jama, the first former refugee and Somali American to serve in the Oregon State Senate. “The well-being of Oregon society as a whole is inextricably intertwined with the well-being of its immigrant and refugee communities who comprised 10% of the state’s total population in 2019. With over 430,000 living and contributing hundreds of billions of dollars in federal, state, and local taxes, this growth has helped promote diversity and strengthen Oregon’s labor force.”
In a press release, the senator’s office said he has championed many pieces of legislation to improve resources for Oregon’s refugee community members and reduce bias and discrimination in Oregon law.
Most recently, his staff noted Jama co-led an effort to secure $18 million to support Afghan families with housing, legal aid, job training and culturally specific support as they arrived in Oregon.
Last March, Governor Kate Brown appointed Toc Soneoulay-Gillespie as the Director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement, highlighted the announcement. Soneoulay-Gillespie is tasked with tracking legislation, advocating for federal resources and monitoring state and local investment, among other services.
“As a refugee, this is a day where I experience the power of community and the power of humanity,” said Soneoulay-Gillespie. “It’s a day that shines a bright light on the voices, faces, and stories of sacrifice, triumph, and gratitude – not just from refugees but all those who have a heart and hand in the welcoming and support of those who have fled war and persecution and a longing to find home.”