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South Sudan refugee athlete named UNHCR goodwill ambassador

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A South Sudanese refugee athlete has been named by the UN refugee agency as the UNHCR’s newest goodwill ambassador in a bid to champion refugees rights.

Yiech Pur Biel, who fled South Sudan’s conflict in 2005 to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya at the age of ten, was named on Tuesday as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador to continue to advocate for the rights of the displaced whilst he continues his training to be on the Refugee Olympic team in Tokyo 2021.

“Pur devoted himself to athletic training despite the intense heat and basic facilities lacking in the camp. He trained at the Tegla Loroupe camp in Nairobi, and began running competitively in 2015, before being part of the first Refugee Olympic Team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” said UNHCR in a statement.

It said Pur’s appointment comes at a time when UNHCR’s Global Trends report states that over 79.5 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced.

South Sudan’s long history of displacement, both before and after its independence in 2011, is listed by the report as a major crisis which contributed significantly to global displacement, said the UN refugee agency.

“It is a huge honor for me to be able to use my status as an athlete to help refugees and displaced people, to share my own story and those of other refugees like me and make sure that refugees all over the world have a voice,” said Pur, a track and field athlete.

“I want to be an ambassador for refugees everywhere and I am so happy to be able to continue my commitment to working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, helping refugees not only to survive but also to thrive. This work is incredible and vitally important to so many people all over the world,” he added.

Following Rio 2016, Pur worked further with the International Olympic Committee and joined the board of the Olympic Refuge Foundation.

His most recent competitive sporting competitions include the 2018 African Athletics Championships in Nigeria, and the 2019 Harmony Geneva Marathon. He is now training and studying in the U.S

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