UNHCR billboards in Hungary celebrate contributions by refugees
BUDAPEST, Hungary, June 19 (UNHCR) - To mark World Refugee Day on June 20, UNHCR's regional office in Budapest has prepared a set of billboards showcasing refugees who have successfully integrated into Hungarian society.
One of the UNHCR posters features Zeeshan, a young Pakistani man who plays in Hungary's enthusiastic, but little-known, national cricket team. "I want to play well for this country," his message reads.
Another features Sophie, originally from Togo, and now a nanny in a Hungarian kindergarten. "The children are full of trust. They have no prejudices," her caption reads.
"The campaign clearly demonstrates how tragic human stories can end positively both for refugees and the receiving country," said Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR Regional Representative for Central Europe. Our campaign shows how integration can be a 'win-win'.
Many Hungarians are enjoying the dialogue between the two sets of posters, which have sparked lively discussions on social media. One of the refugees featured in the UNHCR billboards - which can be seen in Metro stations in Budapest for the next month, and in other parts of the country for most of the year - reports that he has already become a minor celebrity. He says Hungarians have been stopping him on the street to congratulate him and wish him well.
Launched on Tuesday after months of planning, UNHCR's poster campaign follows closely on the heels of the Hungarian Government's own controversial nationwide billboard campaign, which warns migrants to obey the law and not to take jobs away from Hungarians. It is part of what officials are calling a "national consultation on immigration and terrorism."
UNHCR has expressed strong concern over the Government's efforts to paint refugees as a threat to the country. The Hungarian government announced this week plans to erect a fence along the entire southern border with Serbia to keep out refugees and migrants.
"We are deeply concerned that this wall will be a further obstacle for people who have fled from war zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and who desperately need safety and protection," added Ms Feixas Vihé. "This may further lead people to undertake more dangerous crossings and place refugees at the mercy of smugglers."
So far this year, more than 23,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - three countries plagued by war and instability - have applied for asylum in Hungary.
On the same day the Government announced the proposed fence, Pope Francis called for respect for migrants and suggested that "people and institutions" who close doors to them should seek forgiveness from God.
The Pope's appeal was made at the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday. "I invite you all to ask forgiveness for the persons and the institutions who close the door to these people who are seeking a family, who are seeking to be protected," he said in unscripted remarks.