For the first time in the history of the Olympics, 10 refugees are competing without a national team. To stand in solidarity with them, a group of refugees and supporters came together to build “The Refugee Nation,” a project conceived to support the team and the 20 million refugees around the world they symbolize. Amnesty International is supporting this project and is also a partner in “Team Refugees,” an initiative of a broad coalition of groups to rally public support for the refugee athletes – and for refugees around the world.
“By rallying behind the refugee athletes competing in the Olympics, we are telling refugees around the world that they are welcome and they are not alone. During the Olympic games, we’re sending the message that any human being who has been forced to flee the country they call home has the right to be safe and rebuild their lives, and that millions of people stand in solidarity with refugees,” said Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA’s Interim Executive Director.
The Refugee Olympic Team (ROA) was set up by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in recognition of the worldwide refugee crisis. The team is due to carry the official Olympic flag when they march behind host team Brazil at the Opening Ceremony.
Yara Said, an artist and Syrian refugee currently living in The Netherlands, designed a black and orange flag for the team as part of The Refugee Nation, which aims to highlight human rights issues surrounding the global refugee crisis and show extra support for the 10 athletes.
“Black and Orange is a symbol of solidarity with these brave souls who had to wear life vests to cross the sea to look for safety. I also had to wear one; which is why I identify with these colors and these people,” said Yara Said.
In addition, Moutaz Arian, a composer and Syrian refugee now living in Istanbul, has written an anthem for the athletes to stand to.
“I want to make music not just for Kurds or Arabs, but for the whole world,” said Moutaz Arian, who had been studying music at the University of Damascus but decided he had no choice but to flee his country after being threatened with conscription into the Syrian army.
Amnesty International is calling for greater responsibility sharing in the response to the global refugee crisis. The vast majority of refugees are hosted in low and middle income countries, while many of the world’s wealthiest nations host the fewest and do the least, a deeply unfair system which undermines the human rights of refugees.
The organization has put forward five concrete proposals to achieve responsibility sharing.
Amnesty International is also calling on the public to show support for refugee rights by taking this pledge.
The Refugee Olympic team will be represented by:
Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; host National Olympic Committee (NOC) – Belgium; sport – swimming
Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m
James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 400m
Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; host NOC – Luxembourg; sport – athletics, marathon
Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m
Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 800m
Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; host NOC – Kenya; sport – athletics, 1500m
Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -70kg
Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; host NOC – Germany; sport – swimming
Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; host NOC – Brazil; sport – judo, -90kg
(Note: The Refugee Nation was developed by a group of refugees and their supporters to honor the Olympic athletes, and is not affiliated at all with an effort last year to advocate for a new nation to be created for refugees. Team Refugees is a partnership among several dozen leading organizations, including Amnesty International.)
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.