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Refugees to hold congress in Washington next month

Press Releases, 22 November 2013

WHAT: 2013 Refugee Congress

WHEN: December 9-10

WHERE: Washington Court Hotel

Washington, DC

Former refugees from Syria, Iraq, Rwanda and 20 other nations, all of whom now call the U.S. home, gather in the nation's capital next month to meet policymakers and to ensure the refugee voice is part of the conversation on U.S. refugee policies and programs.

Refugee and asylee delegates ranging in age from 22 to 56 and living in each of the 50 U.S. states will hold two days of discussions on December 9 and 10 at the 2013 Refugee Congress, followed by a day of meetings on refugee issues with their respective representatives in the U.S. Congress.

"The United States resettles more refugees than any other nation and few know more about the process than the people who have been through it," said Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR regional representative in Washington.

"Everyone wants to make sure that the voices of refugees are heard," Pitterman said, adding: "The Refugee Congress gives refugees and asylees who have found protection in America the chance to use their knowledge and talents to help others in need."

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres will deliver a videotaped message to the 2013 Refugee Congress and Anne C. Richard, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration is to address delegates in a plenary session.

"I know first-hand what it is to be a refugee and to start a new life in the United States," said Khaled Hosseini, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and author of bestselling novels The Kite Runner, And The Mountains Echoed and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

"Refugees have often had harrowing and traumatic experiences but also experiences of enlightenment and survival. I believe we have important stories to share that can be beneficial to not only other refugees and asylum-seekers but to all people living in the United States," Hosseini said.

The 2013 Refugee Congress in the United States takes place amid a dramatically worsening crisis for persons fleeing war, violence and persecution in Syria, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere around the world.

UNHCR said Tuesday that around 6,000 people had crossed the border from Syria into eastern Lebanon seeking safety while facing freezing winter conditions.

The 2013 Refugee Congress also comes two years after the inaugural Refugee Congress was held in Washington to mark the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the cornerstone document that ensures protection for millions of refugees and other displaced people fleeing danger around the world.

For more information, please visit the 2013 Refugee Congress website

MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Boian, 202.489.6884, Boian@unhcr.org,

Brian Hansford, UNHCR Spokesperson, Washington, 202.999.8253, Hansford@unhcr.org

Lilli Tnaib, UNHCR Public Information Associate, 202.243.7619, Tnaib@unhcr.org

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