Cuban television show spreads awareness about refugees

News Stories, 15 April 2009

© UNHCR
Our Man In Havana: UNHCR's Alberto Aragón (right) participates in the "University for All" show.

HAVANA, Cuba, April 15 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has taken part in a landmark series of Cuban TV programmes that looked at the pressing global issue of migration, including the presence of refugees in such flows.

Alberto Aragón, UNHCR's assistant protection officer in Havana, appeared as a guest lecturer on the five programmes, which ran last month on the popular "University for All" show. They were broadcast on three national TV channels.

"When we were invited to take part in this educational TV programme, we thought it was a great opportunity to reach more people and not only government officials and academics," Aragón said. "This time we got to the common people, those who actually interact with refugees living in Cuba."

The programmes were hosted by two Cuban migration specialists María Elena Alvarez, a professor of the Institute of International Relations, and Antonio Aja, director of Havana University's Centre for Demographic Studies. UNHCR was invited to explain the nexus between asylum and migration.

The programmes addressed the broad issue of human migration in the context of international relations. They also looked at the reasons behind forced displacement; the challenge of protecting refugees who move within mixed migratory flows; the risks of human smuggling and trafficking; and the complexity of protecting other victims of forced displacement.

UNHCR has received positive feedback from people who watched the programmes, including refugees. The agency's participation has complemented its awareness-raising and training activities in the Caribbean island.

The UN refugee agency has worked closely with the Cuban government for more than two decades, supporting efforts to protect thousands of refugees over the years until a durable solution is found. Cuba currently hosts 529 refugees, most of them from Africa and Asia.