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The sun never sets on World Refugee Day events 0

GENEVA – The UN refugee agency is this week launching its most ambitious programme of World Refugee Day (WRD) activities ever, with major events organized for Damascus, Shanghai and Washington, DC.

And, for the first time, New York’s iconic Empire State Building will be spotlit in UNHCR blue from sunset on June 20, World Refugee Day, as a sign of respect and solidarity for refugees. Other international landmarks that will turn blue include the ancient Colosseum in Rome, Geneva’s Jet d’Eau and – also for the first time – the bridge across the Ibar River in the divided Kosovo town of Mitrovica.

Here are some of the many activities taking place around the world:

Africa

In Zambia, WRD-linked events have been planned all week, culminating in special events on Sunday in two refugee camps and in Lusaka, where activities include exhibitions by urban refugees at selected shopping malls and a phone-in radio quiz.

In South Africa, global attention is focused on the World Cup football finals, but UNHCR hopes to use this attention to boost awareness about refugees and asylum-seekers in the country. In Pretoria, UNHCR will be marking WRD on Saturday at the Better World Village Festival. UNHCR will display a massive football shirt made up of jerseys collected by former professional footballer, Bjorn Heidenstrom, to raise awareness about refugees. Activities, including football games, are also planned this week in Cape Town, Durban and Musina.

In addition to traditional performances, music, dance and food, many of UNHCR’s field offices are organizing football matches this year, involving refugees, internally displaced people, host communities, UNHCR and partner staff. This includes tournaments in some towns in Somalia, where UNHCR is otherwise avoiding high-profile events because of the security situation.

Among the more creative events in Africa, restaurants in the Ugandan capital of Kampala will serve special WRD dishes. The proceeds will go to Inter-Aid refugee projects. Ethiopia’s sole mobile phone provider will send out a special WRD text message to all subscribers.

Europe

In Europe, a football tournament is scheduled on June 20 in Brussels between mixed teams of asylum-seekers and Belgian celebrities. Entertainment will include sports activities for children and adults.

In Germany, UNHCR will help organize the 10th annual Refugee Symposium in Berlin, attended by 350-400 governmental and non-governmental delegates from June 14-15. The High Commissioner is scheduled to address the gathering on Tuesday.

UNHCR’s Ireland office is organizing a mini football tournament on WRD in partnership with Sport Against Racism Ireland.

In the Netherlands, UNHCR will publish an eight-page “World Refugee Journal” in cooperation with other organizations working for with refugees. This will be distributed on June 18 in the free daily newspaper, Metro.

UNHCR’s office in France will hold a press conference in Paris on June 16 (tomorrow) and speakers will include former Afghan refugee Nadjib Sirat, who is using mountaineering in the Alps and the Himalayas to promote a more positive image of his homeland. The winner of this year’s UNHCR-Le Monde journalism competition will be announced and presented with an award.

On June 18, UNHCR and Monaco’s Department of International Cooperation will hold a public WRD conference attended by Princess Caroline.

There will be an umbrella parade on June 20 in Britain, which again holds a week of activities around the country to raise awareness about refugees.

In the Italian capital, Rome, on June 18, writers and refugees will take part in a special World Refugee Day panel discussion.

The Americas

New York and Washingon, DC, are the focus of World Refugee Day activities in the United States. For the first time, the 79-year-old, Empire State Building, will be lit blue to honour the world’s refugees.

Continue reading on UNHCR News

By Leo Dobbs – UNHCR

In the picture: Refugees who fled violent conflict near Darfur head for a camp near Goz Beida in Chad. Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters

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