Swedish bikers to raise awareness about refugees during world tour

News Stories, 30 August 2007

© UNHCR/E.Larsson
Around the world through 80 countries. Swedish bikers Gustav Roken (left) and Marcus Bernestom.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 30 (UNHCR) Student Marcus Berneström and stockbroker Gustav Röken have set off from Stockholm on a round-the-world motorbike trip during which they plan to raise awareness about UNHCR.

Friends, relatives and supporters gave the Swedish duo, who have dubbed themselves the "Dusty Travellers," a rousing send off in central Stockholm on Wednesday evening.

Riding trial bikes supplied free by Austrian manufacturer KTM, they will zip over to neighbouring Norway and then up to northern Scandinavia before heading down through Eastern Europe, across the Middle East and Asia to Japan, where they will fly to Alaska.

They will ride down the west coast of the Americas to the southernmost city of Ushaia and then up to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The final leg will take them up through Africa from Cape Town and across Europe to Sweden.

The two plan to visit about 80 countries and say they hope to get a greater understanding of the vast social and environmental challenges facing the world and to pass on this knowledge to others who cannot travel.

They will be visiting UNHCR and UNICEF (UN Children's Fund) projects during their travels. "Please help us support their work," Berneström, 29, and Röken, 25, write in their special website.

"We chose these two organizations because they work with two very vulnerable groups of people," said Röken. "We thank them for their interest in the situation of refugees worldwide and in particular for their planned efforts to draw attention to the plight of refugees," added Hans ten Feld, UNHCR regional representative.

Stockbroker Roken said a key element of the trip would be to speak to individuals and record these encounters on film and in media articles.

The two men had been mulling the idea of a long trip for a while. Berneström studies management and civil engineering, but he has a family background rooted in helping the less privileged in places like the Philippines and Kenya. They decided to combine an adventure with a humanitarian mission.

The two are aware of the dangers and hope to avoid conflict zones. "Our greatest concern is the traffic. It varies so much from one country to another," said Berneström. "We are trying to minimize the risks as much as possible by preparing well."