When people are forced to flee their home and community, due to circumstances beyond their control such as war and conflict, it is common for displaced communities to face increased personal conflict, psychological distress and isolation. It is now widely believed that sport and physical exercise can play an important role in combating some of the challenges of forced displacement by enhancing the protection, well-being and social development of young people from both communities. The sports events also offer opportunities to create awareness among the host community on the plights of refugees. This belief led the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to participate in the Tirana Marathon, through working closely with the Municipality of Tirana and other stakeholders. UNHCR facilitated participation of refugee athletes in the Tirana Marathon provided visibility t-shirts to more than one hundred and thirty runners who stood in solidarity and ran #WithRefugees to promote the community spirit. For the preparation of the Marathon, UNHCR facilitated some training sessions in the weeks prior to the event, to mobilize runners.
The young people have the potential to bring build an inclusive and harmonious future where no one will be left behind. On 16 October, the Municipality of Tirana organized “Fun Run” in the context of the Tirana Marathon. Hundreds of youths from the schools of the city participated, and UNHCR engaged with the youths with specially designed visibility t-shirts for young runners. The “Fun Run” was a great commencement of the Tirana Marathon and the students engaged in highlighting the cause of refugees during the event.
A growing number of cities around the world are embracing refugees. A majority of the world’s refugees live out of camps and in cities and urban areas across all continents. Finding themselves on the frontlines of the global refugee response, an increasing number of cities are choosing to empower refugees and embrace the opportunities they bring.
With a pledge to continue strengthening inclusive services for refugees and asylum seekers, Tirana Mayor Mr. Erion Veliaj signed the Cities #WithRefugees solidarity statement on 17 October, in the context of the Tirana Marathon. He was joined in by the Ambassador of Greece, Ms. Sofia Philippidou, by refugees and asylum seeker families living Tirana and the UNHCR Representative Mr.Pablo Zapata.
In his words to the Tirana Marathon runners before the event, Mayor Veliaj affirmed that Tirana is a city open to refugees and will continue to remain so.
UNHCR will continue engaging with the Tirana Municipality to adopt the best practices from around the world and promote inclusive public services for refugees.