Multnomah County Board of Commissioners proclaims June 20 as World Refugee Day

June 13, 2013

The Multnomah County Board of County Commissioners declared June 20, 2013 as World Refugee Day in Multnomah County on Thursday.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, there were more than 43 million displaced people and 10.4 million refugees worldwide in 2011. World Refugee Day was established to acknowledge the struggles of those displaced from their homes due to violence, persecution or natural disasters. Since 2002, 11,533 refugees have found homes in Oregon and Multnomah County.

According to Victoria Cross, chair of the Multnomah County Immigrants and Refugees Employee Resource Group who presented to the board on June 13, refugees and other displaced people often experience hardship adjusting to their new culture. They face language gaps, along with different rules and customs, but remain invaluable to the community.

“Refugees and immigrants make significant contributions to Multnomah County’s economy, education, culture, art, literature, technological and advancement, and the U.S. in general,” Cross said.

County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, who sponsored the proclamation, noted the array of cultures represented in her neighborhood, including refugees from Ukraine, Vietnam, Argentina, the Czech Republic and Somalia.

“It really is an honor to bring forward this proclamation today that honors refugees in our community and draws attention to the fight of millions of people every year,” Shiprack said. “Refugees bring with them diverse experience and wisdom, adding to the rich cultural fabric of our community.”

The proclamation also comes in light of the county’s recent efforts to support refugees by providing them housing, employment, healthcare, and other resources as they settle locally.

“How happy I am to be within a community that is welcoming of refugees,” Chair Jeff Cogen said. “And that has wonderful community organizations, like Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), and to be working in an organization like Multnomah County that both provides supportive work environments but also really critical services to refugees in our community.”

The theme of this year’s county commemoration is, “One refugee family without shelter is too many.”