On World Refugee Day, you might be surprised who was a refugee!

On World Refugee Day, you might be surprised who was a refugee!

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June 20 is World Refugee Day – a day dedicated to honoring the strength and determination of refugees: women, men and children forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. There are more than 50 million refugees around the world, half of them under the age of 18.

The world’s biggest refugee camp, Dadaab in Kenya, is home to half a million people. A fifth of them have never known life anywhere else. They were born in the camp as third-generation refugees. 

Many are in “protracted limbo”, spending more than five years and often up to 20 or 30 years in a refugee camp.

Three generations of Myanmar refugees. Photo Credit: UNHCR

Three generations of Myanmar refugees. Photo Credit: UNHCR

Most refugees are never granted new citizenship, making working in their new societies difficult or impossible. About 10 million refugees are stateless, making them the most invisible people on the earth.

But many refugees make a positive economic impact in their new communities.

Luopou, a refugee from Guinea, came to the US in 1988. She now owns her own hair salon and employees women refugees from all over the world.

Luopou, a refugee from Guinea, came to the US in 1988. She now owns her own hair salon and employees women refugees from all over the world.

Let’s take a moment to honor the spirit and courage of people displaced from their homes, and recognize their contributions.

Here are eleven famous faces you might not know were also once refugees.

1. The Dalai Lama – Religious leader

Home country: Tibet  Country of exile: India

Dalai Lama

2. M.I.A – Singer

Home country: Sri Lanka  Country of exile: United Kingdom

M.I.A.

3.Wyclef Jean – Rapper

Home country: Haiti  Country of exile: United States

Wyclef Jean4. Madeline Albright – Former US Secretary of State

Home country: Czech Republic.  Country of exile: United States

Madeleine Albright

5. Freddie Mercury – Singer

Home country: Zanzibar  Country of exile: United Kingdom

Freddie Mercury - Color

6. Miriam Makeba – Singer

Home country: South Africa  Country of exile: United States

Miriam Makeba

7. Luol Deng – NBA Basketball Player

Home country: Sudan  Country of exile: United Kingdom

Luol Deng

8. Rita Ora – Singer

Home country: Kosovo  Country of exile: United Kingdom

Rita Ora

9. Henry Kissinger – Former US Secretary of State

Home country: Germany  Country of exile: United States

Henry Kissinger

10. Alex Wek – Supermodel

Home country: Sudan  Country of exile: United Kingdom

Supermodel Alek Wek speaks at the TEDx event sponsored by UNICEF, in Juba, South Sudan on 13 July, 2012. Former Sudanese refugee and supermodel, Alek Wek marks the one year anniversary of independence with her first journey home since the historic referendum. She brings with her a message of peace, hope and inspiration for the young nation. Her firm commitment to innovation in education, creative business solutions and passionate belief in the young people of South Sudan as contributors and recipients of innovative solutions for the future, will be the theme of Alek's presentation. She will talk about her journey to success as a supermodel and how she hopes her story will inspire the youth of this budding nation to strive, in spite of so many challenges, to reach their personal dreams. Alek not only rose to fame as one of the first African supermodels but she has become an emerging voice for refugees. Alek has worked with numerous groups over the years utilizing her fashion platform to lend a voice to critical humanitarian solutions. The TEDx event, entitled ÒNew Nation, New IdeasÓ, is taking place for the first time in South Sudan. TEDxJuba marks the one year anniversary of the countryÕs independence (9 July 2012) by showcasing a growing community of innovators and encouraging direct South-South collaboration and knowledge sharing. TEDxJuba intends to contribute to the growth of the nation by fostering civil society discourse and by strengthening opportunities for young people, women and children to realize their rights.

Supermodel Alek Wek speaks at the July 2012 TEDx event sponsored by UNICEF, in Juba, South Sudan on the one year anniversary of the country’s independence.

11. Albert Einstein – Scientist

Home country: Germany  Country of exile: United States

Albert Einstein

Please share this article and help dispel the myths surrounding refugees.

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