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UNHCR concert raises 200,000 Swiss francs for Africa's young refugees

News Stories, 23 June 2003

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
The World Refugee Day classical concert in Geneva featured video footage from Largo and Kasulu camps in Africa.

GENEVA, June 23 (UNHCR) World Refugee Day may be over, but for young refugees at two African camps, there is new reason to celebrate amid news that a charity concert in Geneva has raised 200,000 Swiss francs (CHF) for their education. Elsewhere in the world, June 20 passed with a wide range of awareness-raising events based on this year's theme of refugee youth.

To mark the annual event, the UN refugee agency on Friday held a classical music concert at its headquarters in Geneva, graced by its Goodwill Ambassador, Adel Imam. The event raised CHF 200,000 CHF 80,000 in ticket sales and CHF 120,000 in donations by the Swiss government for refugee youth projects in Sierra Leone's Largo camp and Tanzania's Kasulu camp.

Despite sweltering temperatures in Geneva, more than 500 people packed into UNHCR's huge atrium to hear music by two classical orchestras and Swiss mezzo-soprano Brigitte Balleys. The building itself was swathed in blue light, as was Geneva's famous giant fountain, the Jet d'Eau, and around 50 public buildings across the country.

"It was an extremely moving event," said Olivier Delarue, UNHCR's Representative in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. "The mix of music and pictures was powerful and emotional." The audience was treated to DVD images taken in the two African camps projected on to a giant screen behind the orchestras. Part of the concert was screened live in Largo camp by Internet link via satellite, and, during the concert interval, two Swiss aid workers in Largo camp spoke via the same link to the concert audience.

Earlier in the day, young refugees in Largo also held a two-way webcast with a school in the Swiss capital, Bern. A group of refugees in Largo sang songs to the Swiss students, and there was considerable interest and good humour on both sides. Feedback from Largo suggests that the day's events had a big impact on the camp's population.

In other parts of Sierra Leone, World Refugee Day was marked by cultural performances by refugees in Kenema, as well as a street parade led by a special World Refugee Day bus decorated with banners painted by refugee youth.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the First Lady and Minister of Foreign Affairs attended a ceremony of songs and speeches by young refugees and local artist Ismael Isaac. Refugees from transit and displaced centres in Abidjan were invited to televised performances by Tonton Bouba the Clown and other Ivorian celebrities. Also broadcast were messages of tolerance recorded by four prominent Ivorian personalities.

Ghana built up to World Refugee Day with a series of public awareness campaigns, including the display of banners bearing Senior Minister and former refugee J.H Mensah's photograph with the slogan, "I was a refugee".

UNHCR staff and refugees in Liberia chose to mark the occasion quietly, wearing T-shirts that were printed before the recent fighting in Monrovia. The agency's implementing partners who also received the T-shirts wore them to work, but there were absolutely no formal activities to commemorate the day.

Events in Pakistan included a mass walk in Quetta and two days of events in Islamabad involving music performances and a handicraft fair.

© UNHCR/B.Baloch
Increasing visibility through a mass walk in Quetta, Pakistan.

Tajikistan marked the day with a court debate by law students from the Tajik National State University. The teams debated the case of an Afghan refugee appealing the State Migration Service's decision not to extend his refugee status. The judges ruled in favour of the refugee after hearing arguments based on the national legislation as well as international refugee legal instruments.

© UNHCR/H.van Oort
Dutch singer Do (in yellow) performing in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Some 6,000 students attended the concert, where they were treated to films on refugee youth and the filming of a music video in a UNHCR tent.

And in the Netherlands, 6,000 students attended a stadium festival where they were treated to films on refugee youth, a presentation by NEC football player and former refugee Youssouf Hersi, as well as performances by singers Jamai, Jim and Do. A UNHCR tent in the middle of the stadium provided the set for a video clip for "On the Run," a new song by Def P en de Onderhonden (Def P and the Underdogs) written specially for World Refugee Day.

The song will be launched on a special website where visitors can add their own rap on refugees to the beat of the song, thus creating a "chain" of raps on the predicament and courage of refugees.

In all, World Refugee Day was commemorated in over 70 countries, with some celebrations continuing beyond June 20.

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