Egypt celebrates refugee contribution in month-long activities
CAIRO, Egypt (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency recently marked the 50th anniversary of its presence in Egypt with a month of events to remember the plight of refugees and to highlight their contribution to their host society.
Organised around World Refugee Day on June 20, the activities started with a gala dinner on June 4 that was attended by 400 senior Egyptian government officials, as well as representatives from the League of Arab States, the diplomatic community, UNHCR, partner agencies and refugees themselves.
In her opening speech, Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Fayza Aboulnaga recalled a time in the 1970s when she lived with refugees in Thailand, an experience that taught her about the suffering and distress of refugees but also about their strength.
"Egypt will always have its doors open to those fleeing persecution," said Aboulnaga.
Refugees and displaced people are "a trust in the hands of the international community," noted Said Kamal, Assistant Secretary-General for Palestinian Affairs in the League of Arab States. "To solve their problems and restore their rights remain a global responsibility that should be shouldered by the world community."
Anne Willem Bijleveld, who heads UNHCR's Division of Communications and Information, added, "Each year, World Refugee Day offers an opportunity to remember the immense human tragedy that lies at the root of every refugee story, and the traumatic experience that most refugees undergo in their lives, before, during and even after flight. But World Refugee Day also allows us to highlight the positive and often forgotten contributions of the host countries and of the refugees themselves."
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Adel Imam co-hosted the event - sharing his experiences in the region, like when he visited refugees in Yemen in 2000 - while renowned Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir performed for the guests.
The gala dinner kicked off a series of World Refugee Day-related events, including a football tournament that involved 22 teams of Sudanese refugees from different districts of Cairo. Organised by the Sacred Heart Church Sports Committee, the tournament had started on March 14 and ended with an exciting final on June 6.
On June 19, more than 1,500 people turned up for the third World Refugee Day Festival at the American University campus in Cairo. Organised by STAR - Student Action for Refugees - the festival sought to promote awareness of refugee issues in Egypt by celebrating the diverse talents in refugee communities in the capital.
"Refugees make valuable contributions to their host community. They have courage, determination and the will not just to survive but also to thrive," said UNHCR Assistant Regional Representative Damtew Dessalegne amid displays of art, music, dance, theatre and food from Palestine, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia.