Openness. Humanity. Security: World Refugee Day 2017 in Riga

World Refugee in Riga: stories, virtual excursions and delicious Middle Eastern food.

The association “I Want to Help Refugees” and think-tank “PROVIDUS” in cooperation with the UNHCR Northern Europe, Media Centre of Stockholm School of Economics in Riga and Society Integration Foundation marked the World Refugee in Riga on 20 June by taking attendees on an adventure through stories, virtual excursions and Middle Eastern food.

The event hosted the 7th Living Library with Rigans, asylum seekers and refugees, a monthly event introduced by “I Want to Help Refugees”. Stories of asylum were shared by those who have sought refuge in Latvia, and stories of return – by those who now return to their grandparents’ homeland. After listening to the stories, an emotional discussion round was held on the impressions gained. One of the attending asylum seekers said: “We are inspired by listening to the experiences of those Latvians who now return; their example shows that becoming integrated in the host society doesn’t mean leaving your own culture behind.”

The participants of the event could also take a look at the daily life in a refugee camp – virtually. Special gadgets provided by UNHCR Northern Europe let people visit Za’atari camp on the border of Syria and Jordan.

The event also hosted beautiful examples of immigrant entrepreneurship – Hummus Team, a social enterprise that employs beneficiaries of international protection and specializes in cooing Middle Eastern food, and Habibi Jewellery, a hand-made-jewellery business set up by a Syrian family.

Latvia ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention on 19 June, 1997 – twenty years ago. While significant challenges remain, as noted at the opening of the event, Latvia has taken significant steps forward during this time, and World Refugee Day celebrations were a reminder that a common goal of wellbeing and cohesion is the key to further growth.