Olympic team carries hopes of young refugees around the world

The greatest show on earth arrives in Brazil this week. And this time the Olympic Games will have a team never seen in its 120-year history.

The Refugee Olympic athletes are 10 sportsmen and women who will take part in the Rio games, where they will compete under the Olympic flag.

Nine of them are under the age of 30 and they include people who fled from the Syrian conflict and five runners from war-torn South Sudan. They will take part in athletics, judo and swimming events.

Meet the Refugee Olympic Team

There are more than 65 million displaced people around the world. Half of them are children and many are denied an education and the chance to fulfil their potential.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, said: “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem.

“They will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

United Nations agencies have launched a #TeamRefugees campaign for people around the world to show their support.

You can use the hashtag #TeamRefugees on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Find out more about the campaign here.

To mark the historic inclusion of the refugee team, we take a look at the issue of refugees, displaced people and education.

Children from the Central African Republic at a refugee camp in Cameroon Picture: OCHA/Ivo Brandau


A refugee is someone who has been forced out of their home and has fled to another country because of conflict, persecution, religion or many other reason. An internally displaced person (IDP) has left their home but is still living in the same country. Stateless people are not a legal national of any country.

Of the 65.3 million displaced people around the world in 2015, 21.3 million were refugees, 34 million were IDPs and 10 million were stateless.

More than half of all refugees worldwide come from three countries – Syria (4.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million).

Education is a basic human right and has been enshrined in the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child. But only 50% of refugee children are enrolled in primary education and 25% are thought to be in secondary school. Many of the schools the children do attend are makeshift ones in camps.

At least 2.8 million children are out of school in Syria and in neighbouring countries Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.

An entry into the #MoreThanARefugee photo contest organised by Mona Hassan, a Global Youth Ambassador from Lebanon


Almost 34,000 people a day are forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution.

Unaccompanied or separated children lodged around 98,400 asylum applications in 2015. They were mainly Afghans, Eritreans, Syrians and Somalis.

In 2015, almost 96,000 unaccompanied minors claimed asylum in Europe.

Turkey hosts more displaced people than any other country – 2.5 million of them. Next come Pakistan (1.6 million), Lebanon (1.1 million) and Iran (980,000).

Turkey has taken in more than 700,000 Syrian refugee children – more than any other country. But 400,000 of them are still out of school. The European Union has just given about $550 million of extra funding to be spent on educating refugees.

Nigerian students use new school supplies at a UNICEF-supported safe space for IDPs in Maiduguri Picture: UNICEF/Esiebo


The Middle East and North Africa hosts 39% of all displaced people. Africa is home to 29%, Asia and Pacific 14%, the Americas 12% and Europe 6%.

Greece has hired 800 extra teachers to help thousands of migrant children join its public schools in the autumn. About a third of the estimated 57,000 refugees in Greece are children.

One in four of the world’s school-age children – nearly 500 million – live in countries affected by crises such as conflicts, natural disasters and disease outbreaks. About 75 million of them are either already missing out on their education, receiving poor quality schooling or at risk of dropping out of school altogether. They include millions of refugees and IDPs.

While world leaders acknowledge the importance of education for refugees and displaced people, in 2015 only 2% of all humanitarian aid went to education.

The Education Cannot Wait fund was unveiled by global and national organisations at the historic World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. The fund aims to reach more than 13.6 million children and youth living in crisis situations with quality education over the next five years and 75 million by 2030.

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