#UNHCR; #IPC; #RPT; #Tokyo2020ParalympicGames; #ParaAthletics
Tokyo (Japan)/Canadian-Media: The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has today confirmed the six athletes who will represent the Refugee Paralympic Team (RPT) at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The athletes, one woman and five men, will compete in Para athletics, Para swimming, Para canoe and Para taekwondo, UNHCR reports said.
Abbas Karimi, an Afghan refugee swimmer who was born without arms, trains in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA. © Getty Images/Michael Reaves. Image credit: UNHCR
The team represents the more than 82 million people around the world who have been forced to flee war, persecution, and human rights abuses, 12 million of whom live with a disability. The Chef de Mission for the team is Ileana Rodriguez, a refugee from Cuba who competed in the London 2012 Paralympic Games in swimming for the USA.
Andrew Parsons, IPC President, said: “I would urge people everywhere to support the world’s most courageous sports team, the Refugee Paralympic Team. These athletes exemplify how change starts with sport: they have suffered life-changing injuries, fled for their safety and undertaken dangerous journeys, but despite the many barriers put in their way, they have become elite athletes ready to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“Sport is a powerful tool to include refugees with disabilities in society and the announcement of the Refugee Paralympic Team is a poignant moment for the IPC – we are delivering on a commitment we made at the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum in 2019 to promote equal participation in sporting events for refugees.”
The IPC is working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to provide opportunities for these remarkable Para athletes to tell their stories at the Games and send a strong message of hope and inspiration to others around the world who have been forced to flee. While all refugees face significant challenges, those with disabilities are frequently at heightened risk and face additional barriers to accessing assistance, services, and opportunities.
UNHCR, the IPC and the RPT athletes are calling for a world in which all displaced people – with or without disabilities – can equally access sport and a commitment to an inclusive and equal world for all. RPT athlete Abbas Karimi, who was a member of UNHCR’s Global Youth Advisory Council and who has recently been named a UNHCR High Profile Supporter epitomizes this commitment as a passionate advocate for disabled refugees’ access to and inclusion in sport – at all levels.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi welcomed the announcement.
“I am thrilled to congratulate each of the six athletes named today as members of the IPC Refugee Paralympic Team. I am also immensely proud of our collaboration with the International Paralympic Committee in promoting inclusion of refugees with disabilities in sport. These athletes, as individuals and as a Team, are sending a message of hope and inspiration to refugees around the world. They are truly trailblazers in promoting refugee and disability inclusion, in elite sport and in life, and we hope their example will move us one step closer towards an inclusive and equal world for all,” Grandi said.
The RPT was announced via a video by stars from the worlds of music, sport, literature, stage and screen who champion the refugee cause. They included Goodwill Ambassadors and high profile supporters from UNHCR, the UN Refuge Agency. The athletes on the Refugee Paralympic Team for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games are:
The IPC has been able to support the RPT to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games thanks the generous backing of commercial partners:
Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto said: “The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee welcomes the participation of the Refugee Paralympic Team at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, following its debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. I hope that the Refugee Team will show the world the endeavour, the resilience and the hope of human beings through sporting competition, and that they will perform at their best with a wish for peace. We will continue to cooperate with the IPC and relevant local municipalities and will make every effort to ensure everything proceeds smoothly and safely for the Refugee Team.”
The RPT also honours the legacy of Sir Ludwig Guttmann. He was a refugee who found a new home to welcome him and repaid that kindness by helping create one of the world’s great movements, the Paralympic Movement. The RPT builds on previous refugee initiatives created by the IPC. At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games a two-person team of refugee and asylum-seeking athletes formed the Independent Paralympic Athletes Team.
*Parfait’s participation in the Games is subject to him being classified by 1 August 2021.