The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cyprus and the Neapolis University in Pafos signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 8 March 2023. The main aim of establishing this collaboration between the two organisations is to connect the academic community and the teaching process with the activities of UNHCR for the further protection of refugees in Cyprus.
The Representative of UNHCR in Cyprus, Ms Katja Saha, thanked the University for its practical support towards refugees and UNHCR’s work, stating:
“A whole-of-society approach to the protection of refugees is needed to address the complex challenges accompanying refugees in their search for protection and lasting solutions. An approach in which not only governments take part in initiatives and policies, but rather all sectors, including universities, can play a meaningful role in protecting refugees. The MoU that we are about to sign today with the Neapolis University is an example of how universities can be active participants in supporting refugees.”
Dr. Pantelis Sklias, the Rector of Neapolis University emphasized that the signing of this Memorandum is an important action for the University, but also for the town of Pafos. Within the scope of the Memorandum and its implementation, a series of initiatives are anticipated, including seminars on refugee rights; provision of educational opportunities for refugees; contact between psychology students of the University with refugees in the community, for the mutual benefit of refugee and asylum-seeker communities in Cyprus as well as the academic community.
As coordinator of the event, Dr. Anastasios Pavlopoulos, addressed the audience with a hopeful outlook: “When scientific research serves society and society serves scientific research, then the hope for a better, for a more beautiful world, without discrimination, pain and wars, becomes a tangible reality .”
Dr. Nikos Peristianis, sociologist and president of the Universitas Foundation addressed the audience with a focus on refugee women, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. He spoke mostly about the conditions that refugee women face today, adding that, in many instances, they are forced to stay behind in order to take care of children or elderly members of their families. Dr. Peristianis added that refugee women are often forced to live in inhumane conditions in reception facilities, frequently falling victim to sexual and gender-based violence and often resorting to prostitution just to be able to survive.
The event took place on International Women’s Day. Specifically, handicrafts created by refugee women together with volunteers from the Pafos community were displayed in the lobby area of the University. In addition, a mosaic entitled “Love Conquers Everything” was also on display. The mosaic was created by a group of unaccompanied and separated asylum-seeking girls from Africa who live in Pafos, together with volunteers from the Learning Refuge. Mary Chojnowski who is a volunteer coordinator at the Learning Refuge addressed the audience, highlighting the importance of support for refugee programs, including the value of volunteering in changing lives and making a difference in society. She and other volunteers from the organization called out for support and solidarity from students and the wider community.
Photographer Sebastian Rich takes students of Neapolis University Pafos on a tour of the exhibition “Fleeing to Safety,” featuring his portraits of refugees. © UNHCR Cyprus
The exhibition “Fleeing to Safety” will remain open to the public at Neapolis University Pafos until 7 April. © UNHCR Cyprus
In parallel, the photographic exhibition “Fleeing to Safety” was launched, featuring the work of award-winning photographer Sebastian Rich. Sebastian has spent his entire professional life documenting conflicts all over the world. “In this exhibition, I urge you to forget the so-called art of photography, and the photographer, and look instead in the eyes of the people who are portrayed on these walls; try to imagine the pain and anguish they have gone through, and in many cases are still going through,” he said.
The exhibition was first presented in June 2022 on the occasion of World Refugee Day by UNHCR and the Universitas Foundation. It includes photos of refugees, asylum-seekers and other forcibly displaced persons in Cyprus and all over the world, as captured through Sebastian Rich’s lens. The personal stories and portraits presented in the exhibition are a stark reminder that each and every person has the right to seek safety, no matter who they are, where they are from or when they may be forced to flee war and persecution.
The exhibition was curated by Katerina Hadjistylli and will be open to the public at Neapolis University Pafos until 7 April 2023. The mosaic ‘Love Conquers Everything’ will also be hosted by the University and can be viewed by the public.
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