Rowing the Atlantic: Adventurer Omar Samra, UNHCR and UNDP Joining Forces for Refugees

Dec 12, 2017

Inspirational adventurer, motivational speaker and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador, Omar Samra will set out on a journey to attempt one of the world’s most grueling challenges, rowing across the Atlantic, in solidarity with refugees and in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and UNDP. “#Rowing4Refugees” aims to raise awareness of the plight of millions of refugees and asylum-seekers through a first-hand experience of the hardships and risks that refugees often endure when fleeing conflict and seeking safety across dangerous waters.

Accompanying Samra would be professional triathlete and businessman, Omar Nour. They will both embark on a challenge of endurance across the Atlantic on a rowing boat. The 5,000-km journey will begin on 12 December 2017 in San Sebastian de la Gomera in the Canary Islands, ending in Nelson’s Dockyard English Harbour in Antigua. The team will be the first Egyptian team to cross the Atlantic, competing with other teams, each made up of 1-4 rowers from all over the world.

“The refugee crisis is one of the most critical issues facing our world today. How humanity chooses to respond to it will shape all our futures. We are proud of this initiative and we are fully aware that refugees being left with no option but to leave their homes and cross dangerous seas to reach safety is far more challenging that anything we will ever experience. Having said this, we hope to use this unique platform of the ocean row to shed more light on the perils of such journeys and why it is so important to bring this cause to the public eye and into discussion, as well as encourage people on the move to make informed decisions,” said Omar Samra.

UNHCR data indicates that as of 5 December 2017 over 1.5 million refugees and migrants arrived to Europe by sea since 2014 with the number of deceased or missing reaching over 12,000. Those embarking on sea journeys risk their lives packed in small fishing or rubber boats in extremely poor conditions without expertise or equipment to reach ashore in safety. For many of them, such risks are the last part of a dangerous journey that includes desert crossings and abuses including sexual violence, torture, and abductions for ransom, by criminal networks.

“This is a demonstration of courage, putting the spotlight on the risks refugees face and resilience they show – against all odds – in their search for safety. It also serves as an important reminder of the need for concrete steps to address smuggling and trafficking through measures that provide for safe and legal pathways to protection, including increasing resettlement and facilitating family reunification,” says Mr. Karim Atassi, UNHCR Representative in Egypt.

“We are proud to partner with Omar Samra and UNHCR in “#Rowing4Refugees” to shed the light on the hardships refugees face. We want to see a world where all people don’t have to risk their lives in search for safety,” said Ms. Randa Aboul Hosn, UNDP Country Director. “At UNDP Egypt, we continue to support host communities and Syrian Refugees through local development programmes that strengthen their resilience and improve their quality of life as the crisis continues, devastating lives and forcing millions of people to flee from their homes.”  

The “#Rowing4Refugees” initiative coincides with the launch of the 2018 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan designed to support over five million refugees from Syria and the vulnerable communities hosting them in neighbouring countries. UNHCR and UNDP work in partnership across the Middle East to ensure that refugees have access to safety and basic rights and services, and that the countries hosting them receive international support and solidarity.

To follow the conversation, check on Facebook and Twitter: #Rowing4Refugees

Omar Samra: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

UNHCR: Facebook, Twitter

UNDP: Facebook, Twitter


Background Information


UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.

About UNDP

For over 50 years, UNDP has been supporting the Egyptian government and people in their efforts to reduce poverty and to promote sustainable human development policies. One of the hallmarks of UNDP Egypt’s success is its long-term support to the Government in building and sustaining strategic national institutions that have added significant value to improving people’s lives in the country.

Contact information

UNDP: Fatma Elzahraa Yassin; Communications Analyst,

UNHCR: Christine Beshay; Assistant Public Information & Communications Officer,

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