GENEVA, June 10 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency, in its 60th year, will mark World Refugee Day with a rich and varied programme of events in locations worldwide and the launch of a new global awareness campaign.
UNHCR will start rolling out the multimedia “One” campaign next week. Over the next six months it will increase awareness about the forcibly displaced and stateless by telling their powerful personal stories. The campaign will carry the message that “One Refugee Without Hope is too Many.” UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has recorded a World Refugee Day message that ties in with the campaign and calls on people to “Do 1 Thing.”
The Italian capital of Rome will be the focus of this year’s events on World Refugee Day itself (June 20), with High Commissioner António Guterres due to present UNHCR’s annual statistics report on the number of people of concern to the agency. He will also preside over a special commemorative event that will be attended by Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano and six refugees, including a Polish survivor of the Holocaust in World War II. Rome’s ancient Colosseum will again be bathed in UN blue, one of many monuments around the world to be spotlit to mark the occasion, including the iconic Empire State Building in New York.
Activities and special events will not be restricted to June 20, but will start in the week ahead of the special day. Guterres, for example, will be going to Italy’s Lampedusa Island on June 19 to meet some of the thousands of people – including refugees and asylum-seekers – who have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea on overcrowded vessels from Libya.
UNHCR staff have been planning for World Refugee Day (WRD) for months and have prepared a wide range of activities, including light shows, film screenings, lectures, panel discussions, food bazaars, fashion shows, cultural performances, concerts and sports contests. There will also be competitions, tree planting, speeches, poetry recitals and photography exhibitions, including a special collaboration with the prestigious Magnum agency – “60 Years, 60 Lives” – to mark UNHCR’s 60th anniversary in a year that also marks the 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention.
The agency’s partners, including governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, Angelina Jolie and our other Goodwill Ambassadors, will be doing their part to help, and refugees in camps and urban centres around the world will participate while enjoying much needed recognition. UNHCR has an ambitious social media campaign to promote the day and spread awareness about the “One” campaign.
Several European countries – Austria, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Portugal – will be holding special football tournaments between citizens of the host countries and refugees and asylum-seekers in cooperation with local partner organizations. Side attractions will include food stalls, face-painting, information stands and music. A number of countries in Europe will also hold umbrella parades, symbolising protection, including the United Kingdom and Austria.
In the French capital, Paris, UNHCR and several partners will on June 27 organize a WRD-linked writers’ conference on exile, asylum and identity. It will bring together a number of writers who are, or have been, refugees or exiles in France, including Marjane Satrapi, Elias Sanbar, Paula Jacques, Zoe Valdes, Atiq Rahimi and Alain Mabanckou.
UNHCR’s office in Strasbourg, meanwhile, will on June 20 open a three-day “living library” in the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. This will gather refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people who can be borrowed by the public, like a library book, for a limited period of time, during which the “reader” finds out about their history. A similar event will be organized by UNHCR on June 21 in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Also in Strasbourg, Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees T. Alexander Aleinikoff will join high-profile judges and academics from Africa, Europe and the Americas taking part in a June 15-16 conference on the role of regional human rights courts in interpreting and enforcing legal standards for the protection of forcibly displaced people.
Britain will hold its traditional Refugee Week with hundreds of events planned around the country. There will be a Celebrating Sanctuary Festival beside the River Thames in London, where a UNHCR tent will be pitched. On June 20, as part of a Simple Acts campaign, Home Secretary Theresa May will invite a group of refugees to afternoon tea.
In Scandinavia, there will be a major live event on World Refugee Day at Sweden’s largest and busiest railway station – Stockholm Central. There will be a miniature refugee camp built from tent-shaped cards, and a big UNHCR tent inside the station. TV monitors will show UNHCR films and messages.
In Tallinn, Estonia, striking refugee photos by Norwegian photographer Espen Rasmussen will be exhibited. In nearby Lithuania, people will take part in a bike tour of the capital, Vilnius, on June 20.
To the east, in Moscow, UNHCR and the Russian Federation’s Civic Chamber will on WRD launch an exhibition of 50 photos taken by refugee children residing in and around Moscow. The images, recorded on disposable cameras provided by UNHCR, depict the world these children live in.
A slate of interesting activities is planned across Georgia, including a joint production between UNHCR and the Tavisupali Theatre of a drama about what it’s like to be a refugee, internally displaced or stateless. It will be performed on June 18 in Zugdidi and on June 20 in the capital, Tbilisi.
UNHCR’s Athens office will be staging a multicultural event that will bring together young Greek people and refugees and help to spread awareness about the forcibly displaced and understanding for their plight in a country where racism and xenophobia are problems. Special guests will include UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador George Dalaras and prizes will be awarded to a UNHCR-run contest on social integration and the promotion of coexistence.
In Belgium, UNHCR has decorated the tram that runs along the country’s coastline until the end of November. A series of tents is depicted on the outside of the tram, with the written message: ”Ýeah, holidaaaaay! Nope, a refugee camp.”
In the Romanian capital of Bucharest, popular restaurants, artists and photographers will get together on June 18 to present “SlideLuck PotShow,” an event that combines eating and visual arts, including photos from the Magnum exhibition. Artists submit images and guests and restaurants bring along food. The lights are dimmed, the crowd hushed, and the show begins.
For the first time, the Tokyo Tower – Japan’s second tallest artificial structure – will be lit in blue for three hours from seven o’clock on the evening of June 20. But because of tsunami-linked damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the lighting will be at 50 per cent of normal brightness.
UNHCR’s Malaysia office will celebrate early, with a public event at the Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station on June 18-19. Several thousand visitors are anticipated to attend while more than 200 refugees will also participate and interact with the public. Malaysians will be able to sample what it’s like to be a refugee by going through a series of scenarios in a maze-like structure.
In neighbouring Thailand, a refugee film festival will be held from June 20-22, kicking off with the screening of “Moving to Mars,” which tells the epic journey from a refugee camp in Thailand to the UK made by two families from Myanmar. UNHCR resettlement experts will later talk to the audience.
Hong Kong will also host a film festival among many other events. Popular Chinese actress Yao Chen is expected to help promote WRD events in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Indonesia’s WRD plans include an exhibition of handicrafts made by refugees, cooking, flower arranging and drawing and colouring competitions, tree planting, a futsal match and a badminton tournament.
In the Middle East, UNHCR will be screening the premiere on World Refugee Day of “United in Exile,” by Syrian director Nabil Maleh. The 45-minute documentary portrays the lives of Iraqi refugees in Syria. It will be screened at the Opera House in Damascus.
In the Lebanon, staff of the popular TSC supermarket chain will wear UNHCR t-shirts for the week beginning on June 20, while on June 25 refugees will sell handicrafts in eight UNHCR tents to be pitched in Beirut’s flea market, the Souk-el-Tayeb. The same day, UNHCR will help judge a talent show for refugees at Saint Joseph University.
Despite the volatile situation in North Africa, UNHCR will be organizing a concert by famed local oud (lute) player, Lofti Bouchnaq, in the open air theatre of the Tunisian town of Djerba on June 20. The refugee agency has also organized a photo competition for Tunisians, with applicants asked to send images of the influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing Libya since February. A selection will be exhibited on June 18-19 and the winner will receive a professional camera.
Several events are planned in South Africa, many of them linked to the new “One” campaign and what people can do to help refugees. On June 20, UNHCR will use a ceremony in Soweto to launch the kwaito-style song, “I’m My Brother’s Keeper.” Performed by well-known local artists Zonke and Stoane, it promotes tolerance and peaceful coexistence between locals and foreigners, including refugees and asylum-seekers.
In Chad on World Refugee Day, UNHCR will help organize a debate at N’Djamena University on “Refugees and Migrants in Chad.” In Ghana, UNHCR will launch a six-month fund-raising project to provide secondary education scholarships to 60 refugee students.
A 10-kilometre walk will be held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo capital, Kinshasa, to promote awareness about the “One” campaign, with more than 5,000 people expected to take part. In the southern town of Lubumbashi, films will be screened at the Halle de l’Etoile, followed by a debate on the situation of refugees in the vast country.
Restaurants in Uganda will hold special WRD meals from June 16-20, with 25 per cent of the proceeds going to help urban refugees. Staff from UNHCR and partner agencies will take on refugees in a football match in Kampala on June 17, while there will be a WRD parade through the city two days later.
The Americas will be the last to celebrate World Refugee Day, but not the least. On the day itself, former Somali refugees Siham and Iman Hashi will give a special musical performance as “Sweet Rush” in Washington DC’s Kennedy Centre. The event will also feature the exhibition, “Nowhere People,” by award-winning photographer Greg Constantine, which will be on display in the Hall of Nations from June 13-July 10.
Elsewhere in the United States, Goodwill Envoy and acclaimed author Khaled Hosseini will join a senior UNHCR official in a public event at the World Affairs Council of Northern California in San Francisco on June 16. In New York, meanwhile, the top floors of the Empire State Building will be illuminated in blue for the second year running. The Norwegian mission to the United Nations will host a Nansen lecture on “The Changing Face of Displacement in the 21st Century.”
Across the border in Canada, many cities have full activities planned. In Toronto, the CN Tower, once the world’s tallest man-made structure, will be lit blue. There will be a ministerial event in Ottawa to mark WRD and UNHCR’s 60th anniversary, while Montreal will have information stands, concerts, dance performances and photo exhibitions.
In South America, an event on the theme of “Put Yourself in a Refugee’s Shoes” will be organized on Colombia’s border with Venezuela attended by celebrities Andrea Echiverri and Sebastian Yepes. In the northern Ecuador town of Lago Agrio, locals and refugees are organizing a WRD meal for 500 people, including a whole roasted cow. Meanwhile, the tiny riverside community of Barranca Bermeja, on the border with Colombia, will mark the day with electric light for the first time, after being linked to the national grid with UNHCR help.
In Costa Rica, UNHCR will organize a theatrical performance on the streets of San José on June 20. Young people will hand out flyers with key messages that reflect the suffering of the displaced. And in Mexico, UNHCR and the Mexican Refugee Commission will stage story-telling performances from June 21-24 for unaccompanied refugee children and young Mexicans living in shelters. The annual WRD festival will be held in Mexico City on June 25.