Members of the Refugee Olympic Team pose for a photo in front of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. [AP Photo]

Team of Refugees Competes for the First Time at #Rio2016

By: Erin M. Barclay, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and Regional Policy and Coordination in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs

For the first time, 10 athletes from four countries will join together to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as #TeamRefugees. Among them are five runners from South Sudan, two swimmers from Syria, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a marathon runner from Ethiopia.

Their participation comes at a time when more people than ever are forced to flee their homes to escape conflict or persecution. They are a powerful tribute to the personal courage and perseverance of all refugees. The stories of this group of 10 athletes have, understandably, taken the world by storm as they inspire each of us to never give up.

Meet the Members of #TeamRefugees


Rami Anis, 25, Syria, 100-meter butterfly

Yolande Mabika, 28, Democratic Republic of the Congo, middleweight

Paulo Amotun Lokoro, 24, South Sudan, 1,500 meters

Yusra Mardini, 18, Syria, 200-meter freestyle

Yiech Pur Biel, 21, South Sudan, 800 meters

Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, South Sudan, 800 meters

Popole Misenga, 24, Democratic Republic of the Congo, middleweight

Yonas Kinde, 36, Ethiopia, marathon

Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, 21, South Sudan, 1,500 meters

James Nyang Chiengjiek, 28, South Sudan, 800 meters

These athletes should not just inspire us to hope, they should also inspire us to act. Ongoing conflicts around the world have driven more than 65 million people from their homes — the highest level in history.

The United States is determined to find solutions. That is why President Obama is hosting the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees on September 20 on the margins of the UN General Assembly. The goal of the President’s summit is to expand the humanitarian safety net and create more long-term, durable opportunities for refugees. This Summit is in keeping with the long history of U.S. leadership on refugee issues, including groundbreaking refugee legislation in 1948 that facilitated the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Europeans displaced by World War II, and the Refugee Act of 1980, which standardized federally-supported resettlement services for refugees admitted to the United States. Since 1975, the United States has resettled more than 3.2 million refugees representing more than 70 nationalities. We have benefited from these refugees in countless ways -– from their scientific and artistic achievements to their injection of economic stimulus in cities and communities across the country to their service in the U.S. armed forces.

I look forward to joining the world as we watch these courageous men and women march under the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony at the Maracanã Stadium in Brazil. As the world unites through the Olympic games, and as they gather to root for #TeamRefugees, let us all recommit to doing more for the individuals and communities they represent.


This story originally appeared on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State’s Official Blog.

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