World Refugee Day in Rome on 20 June

Annual international event comes as refugee crisis escalates in Italy.

On 15 June, five days before World Refugee Day, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) announced that more than 3,400 migrants died or went missing trying to cross international borders in the first five months of this year. The IOM said 80 per cent of the migrants were making their way from north Africa to Italy, across the Mediterranean, a crossing it described as the "most dangerous passage in the world."

Rome’s Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC), a ministry of St Paul’s Within the Walls American Episcopal Church, will mark World Refugee Day on Monday 20 June by distributing gift bags of essential items to its guests. In the days leading up to the annual event, the JNRC is appealing to Rome residents to donate new (unused) items including deodorant, toothbrushes, socks and underwear.

Donations, in bags maked “World Refugee Day”, can be left at JNRC’s offices at St Paul’s Within the Walls, at Via Napoli 58, (off Via Nazionale), from Monday-Friday 08.30-15.30 and on Sunday 10.00-15.30. Donated items will then be packaged into gift bags and presented to the guests of the JNRC which is located in the church's crypt and welcomes up to 250 people each weekday.

Rome is also marking World Refugee Day by exhibiting the Lampedusa painting by Rome-based Irish artist Michelle Rogers, at the Sala S. Rita, a deconsecrated church used as a municipal art space. Rogers' powerful painting features a boatload of desperate migrants, their faces shielded from the sun, as they make their way to Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island which has become synonymous with the refugee crisis.

The 300 x 175-cm canvas, which has previously been exhibited during the 2007 Venice Biennale at the Church of S. Giorgio, will be displayed alongside smaller immigration-themed works by Rogers. The inauguration is scheduled for 18.00 on Monday 20 June and the painting can be seen from 20-23 June, 11.00-19.00.