ROME, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Italy marked United Nations World Refugee Day on Tuesday as government urges continued solidarity with thousands of people being rescued in the Mediterranean on a daily basis.
"Over 180,000 people disembarked on our coasts last year, and 50 percent of arrivals this year requested asylum," Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni wrote in a message to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
"Italy has proven it is possible to be generous and to respect one's civil values, without giving in to convenience or national egoism," Gentiloni said in the message, as reported by ANSA news agency.
"Along with UNHCR, we commit to win the challenge of protection: we must protect those who flee from war, those who are persecuted. It is a juridical and moral duty, which bears on all our consciences," Gentiloni's message said.
On the subject of refugees and their integration into society, Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini said that "much still needs to be done to make sure that every child gets an education, every family has a safe place to live, every refugee is able to work or learn new skills in order to contribute to the host community."
In Florence, the city commemorated the occasion by projecting the "WithRefugees" hashtag onto Palazzo Vecchio, the palace that houses city government.
In cities from north to south, young refugees and Italian high school kids teamed up to play an annual football tournament to combat prejudice and discrimination.
The "Io Ci Sono" (Italian for "I Am Present") tournament taking place in the cities of Catania, Messina, Milan, Naples, and Rome is organized by the Digital World Foundation non-profit with support from Microsoft, the Saint Egidio lay Catholic charity, and the Italian Referees Association, among others.
The Digital World Foundation also organized a program in which 1,300 Italian kids acted as language, civics, and digital facilitators to 2,000 refugees in schools from north to south.
"Over 30 million children in the world flee their homes due to wars, poverty, hunger, and persecutions," tweeted the Italy chapter of Save the Children NGO, which is very active in Mediterranean rescue operations coordinated by Italy's Coast Guard.
World Refugee Day marks the 1951 UN Refugee Convention written in the aftermath of World War II, which displaced millions of Europeans.
Ratified by 154 countries, it defines the term 'refugee' and outlines the rights of displaced people as well as the legal obligations of states to protect them.
In 2016, 10.3 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution and there were a total of 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the European Commission tweeted.
Of the refugee population, 51 percent are under 18 years old, according to the Comission.