UNHCR sails through World Refugee Day campaign in Geneva
GENEVA, June 13 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency is setting sail for World Refugee Day with the annual Bol d'Or sailing race this weekend. Nine boats will sail in support of UNHCR on Lake Léman in Geneva, Switzerland, on Saturday as part of a public awareness campaign ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20.
The nine boats will display the Geneva-based refugee agency's "Ensemble pour le HCR" (Together for UNHCR) stickers and flags. The six- to eight-man teams will wear the agency's T-shirts and caps in a large visibility operation designed to make the public in Geneva and the region more aware of UNHCR's mandate and activities for refugees.
In tune with this year's World Refugee Day theme of refugee women, one of the boats racing for UNHCR will have two refugee women on board, symbolising the spirit of all refugee women in the world struggling to survive and rebuild their lives. One of the women on board is a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina who is residing in Switzerland. The other is a Congolese refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, currently living in Romania, where she has founded an association to help other refugees.
Among the other boats supporting UNHCR is last year's Bol d'Or winner, as well as three other catamarans that are featured among the favourites.
"We are proud to be associated with this prestigious race," said Olivier Delarue, UNHCR Bureau Chief for Switzerland. "For the past 64 years, participants in this major Geneva sporting event have shown the same values of courage, determination, respect and hope that UNHCR shares. These values are also shown every day by the very refugees we are trying to help."
Fair weather conditions have been forecast for Saturday morning, when the race will kick off for some 500 registered boats in front of Geneva's harbour. They will sail for several hours and turn back at the Bouveret buoy at the other end of the crescent-shaped Geneva lake. Depending on the wind, front-runners are expected to arrive back later the same afternoon. The other boats, which include small familial crews, traditionally return through the night and even into Sunday.
Organisers and sponsors of the event have all supported the project enthusiastically. "We want to show our support in the search for durable solutions for millions of uprooted men and women in the world," said Patrick Lier, Chairman of the Bol d'Or organising committee.
In a further gesture of support, some of the local and international celebrities living along the lakeshore will also fly large UNHCR flags on their properties.
The Geneva event will be widely broadcast on local and international television, and UNHCR staff members will participate in a number of radio programmes and TV shows on this occasion and in the build-up to World Refugee Day.
On June 20, the famous Jet d'eau fountain in Geneva will be lit up in blue, while UNHCR flags will be flown on the Mont-Blanc bridge.