28 Apr 2017
The Syrian swimmer, who competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 as a member of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, has become the youngest Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
From surviving her ordeal of escaping Syria with her elder sister and swimming for their lives across the Mediterranean Sea to sharing a pool with the likes of Olympic champion Michael Phelps, Yusra Mardini has become an extraordinary and inspiring voice for refugees around the world since her selection for last summer’s Olympic Games.
Taking on the role at a time when over 65 million people across the globe have been driven from their homes by war and persecution, the Syrian swimmer said she was proud of and honoured by this appointment, which, at 19 years-old, makes her the youngest of Ambassadors.
It is my hope that, through her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Yusra will continue to inspire refugees, reminding us that anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.Thomas Bach IOC President
Congratulating the Olympian on her appointment, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said: “The participation of Yusra and her fellow athletes of the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 sent a message of hope to all refugees in the world. It demonstrated to a global public that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. It is my hope that, through her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Yusra will continue to inspire refugees, reminding us that anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”
UN High Commission for Refugees Filippo Grandi said: “Yusra is a deeply inspiring young woman. Through her powerful story, Yusra represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than 10 million young refugees around the globe.”
A remarkable example of the resilience and determination of forcibly displaced people to rebuild their lives and contribute to their host communities, the refugee Olympic athlete, who has been granted asylum in Germany, wants to "continue spreading the message that refugees are just normal people living through traumatic and devastating circumstances who are capable of extraordinary things if only given the change".
Having pledged to pursue her work with young refugees, Mardini also remains committed to swimming and has set her sights on competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
“We cannot forget the Olympic Games bring all people together,” she said. “I’m really hoping that in the next Olympic Games there will be a refugee team.”
Read Yusra Mardini’s story of swimming for joy after swimming for her life