Syrian Swimmer Named UN Refugee Agency Goodwill Ambassador

Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, speaking in Geneva on her appointment as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. UN Photo / Daniel Johnson
Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, speaking in Geneva on her appointment as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. UN Photo / Daniel Johnson

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appointed Thursday Yusra Mardini as its new Goodwill Ambassador.

Yusra is a Syrian refugee who together with her sister swam for three hours in the Mediterranean Sea off Turkey’s coast, pulling a capsizing boat of refugees to safety. Her actions saved the lives of 20 refugees who were fleeing the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Yusra was also one of the 10 athletes who made up the historic Olympic Refugee Team and participated at the Rio Olympic Games last year.

According to the UN, she has been a very powerful voice for the forcibly displaced across the world and an example of their resilience and determination to rebuild lives and positively contribute to host communities.

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“The UN refugee agency does the most important and incredible work for refugees under extremely challenging circumstances, and I am proud to use my voice to support UNHCR,” said Ms. Mardini, accepting her new role.

Since her participation at the Rio Olympics, Ms. Mardini has worked closely with the UN agency, drawing global attention to the plight of refugees, speaking at forums including the 2016 UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (which adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants) and the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos.

Ms. Mardini is currently a full time student in Germany and continues to train in the hope of competing at the next Olympic Games in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, in 2020.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors are some of the most recognizable public faces of the UN agency. They help take its work to every corner of the world through their influence, dedication, and hard work.

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Rakesh Raman