UNHCR's awareness campaign reaches London after stops around the UK
LONDON, United Kingdom, November 27 (UNHCR) - UNHCR's stepped up awareness campaign in the United Kingdom (UK) came to London on Monday when the refugee agency opened a stand at a major international conference on race relations.
Typical emergency assistance items for refugees, including a plastic sheet, tent, jerry can and sleeping mat, are at the centre of the UNHCR exhibit at the Commission for Racial Equality's Race Convention 2006. The display also draws on elements of UNHCR's Ninemillion.org campaign about the importance of sport and education for refugee children.
"We're trying to show the reality of the lives of refugees in the field and how UNHCR is working for solutions in partnership with host governments. All too often, we forget that the vast majority of the world's refugees flee to neighbouring countries and live in humble shelters such as the one represented at this display," said Bemma Donkoh, UNHCR representative in the UK.
Some 900 delegates are attending Race Convention 2006, which will hear from 160 speakers from around the world. It is the first event of its kind in the UK.
Appearance at the event is part of a stepped up UNHCR campaign over the past year to give British politicians and the public a sense of how Britain can better integrate its increasingly diverse population - including refugees and asylum seekers - and also help uprooted communities overseas.
The UNHCR roadshow has crossed the country. Staff have attended meetings and met key national and regional leaders at conferences in places as far apart as the ski centre of Aviemore in Scotland and the English Channel resort of Bournemouth, where UNHCR set up stall in early October at the annual conference of the opposition Conservative Party.
UNHCR also participated in fringe events at the annual conferences in September of the ruling Labour Party in Manchester and of the Liberal Democrat Party. In Manchester, UNHCR held a joint reception with Amnesty International and the Refugee Council which was addressed by Immigration Minister Liam Byrne. He underlined government plans to boost resettlement and aid refugees.
At the Liberal Democrat Party's conference in Brighton, UNHCR's Donkoh participated in a panel discussion on whether the UK asylum policy was "fit for purpose." A lively discussion chaired by Baroness Shirley Williams ranged from specifics of the UK asylum system to the way forward for peace in Darfur.
UNHCR staff at the Race Convention on Monday were distributing brochures promoting the organisation's international relief and refugee protection work, the Ninemillion.org campaign and the Gateway refugee resettlement programme. The latter is aimed at helping long-term refugees with protection problems in their country of first asylum, to be integrated into British communities. A total 554 refugees have been resettled since its inception in 2004.
UNHCR's Quality Initiative project, an exercise to assist the UK government's Home Office in the refugee status determination process, is also among the topics presented.
By Jennie Hartley and Duncan Trevan in London, United Kingdom