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World Refugee Day 2004: Kenya

World Refugee Day 2004: Kenya

20 June 2004

Refugee children playing alongside their Kazakh peers at the summer camp. © UNHCR Kazakhstan

On June 15, a three-hour workshop was held at UNHCR's office in Nairobi for journalists, especially those already involved in highlighting refugee issues. The workshop was chaired by the UNHCR Representative who discussed with the press about the agency's operations in Kenya, and answered questions from those present.

On June 16, a forum for discussions on refugee issues was convened. The panel discussion provided an opportunity for the Kenyan public and refugees living in the country to discuss the several solutions available for addressing the plight of refugees. The panel included the Head of the Sudan Peace Talks, the Secretary to the Kenya Constitution Review Commission, the UNHCR Representative and a refugee representative.

The panel discussed on whether or not repatriation was the only durable solution for refugees. This forum was well attended by various government representatives, members of the civil society, faculty and students from the universities, the press, and most importantly by refugees themselves.

From June 17 to 20, UNHCR collaborated with a local group, Heartstrings Kenya, which allowed refugees to be the curtain-raisers for their play titled, "Caught in the Net". Refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Burundi staged the performances. At the same time, brochures on UNHCR and World Refugee Day were distributed to members of the public. UNHCR officials were also present to respond to questions.

On June 17, the Environmental Education Section of NGO "Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit" organised a drawing and creative writing competition based on the theme, "The place I want to live". The collected funds will be spent on four-year scholarships for two outstanding students, book prizes for 19 students, a set of textbooks for the winning school in each category, and a two-door pit latrine for the winning school.

On June 18, the drawing and creative writing competition was evaluated by a panel, and the winning refugee students were honoured at a ceremony at the Goethe Institute. The students and their chaperons travelled to Nairobi from the camps. They read their stories and exhibited their art works before an audience of policy makers, donors, environmentalists, publishers, educators and child advocacy agencies. This event was organised and hosted by GTZ. UNHCR posters were also displayed.

On June 19, a major commemoration ceremony was held at Kakuma refugee camp, home to the majority of Sudanese refugees in Kenya. At this event, several refugee groups provided different forms of entertainment for the guests including government officials, NGO and UN agency representatives as well as media. A number of aid agencies exhibited their work with refugees in areas such as HIV/AIDS, solar projects and handcrafts. The Minister in the Office of the Vice President officially opened the newly constructed government houses in Kakuma, which will be used by the Department of Home Affairs in their work with refugees.

Government representatives as well as NGO and UNHCR staff were present in each refugee camp. The refugee community presented poems, dances, songs and epics highlighting challenges in asylum, initiatives in place to dignify their life in asylum and their dreams to return home in safety and dignity. Football matches were held to commemorate the day. A two-week reproductive health and peace education campaign by the National Council of Churches of Kenya and clean-up campaigns led by CARE's Youth Department were conducted.

On June 20, GTZ's Urban Refugee Assistance Programme celebrated World Refugee Day at the Accommodation Centre for refugees. There was a handicraft exhibition as well as other forms of entertainment for those present. UNHCR officials were on hand to address the refugees.

A special mass was held in honour of refugees at the Don Bosco Shrine in Nairobi. The mass was organised by Jesuit Refugee Service and was attended by the Minister for Home Affairs, government officials, refugees and UNHCR staff.

From June 21 to 25, the Centre for Refugee Studies at the Moi University held a refugee awareness week at their campus in Nairobi. A UNHCR official was invited to address over 300 students on issues concerning repatriation, in line with this year's World Refugee Day theme. The students were offered UNHCR magazines and publications.

World Refugee Day posters were displayed in all offices of UNHCR and its partner agencies, as well as in public places, universities, churches and schools. Six hundred World Refugee Day T-shirts and caps were printed and distributed to NGO and UNHCR staff, refugees, as well as other participants in the commemoration. In addition, thematic posters and leaflets were distributed to the media, participants, guests and audiences.

UNHCR officials made appearances on national radio and television programmes.