Democracy & Justice

​Italy Stands #WithRefugees to Celebrate World Refugee Day

The situation of refugees is not just the political issue that the general public has come to know - it is and always will be a human issue. To celebrate World Refugee Day, Italy is holding a series of eye-opening events across the country.

by Malika Bêche-Capelli

Organized by the UNHCR and held every year on June 20, World Refugees Day’s exists to "make visible solidarity and empathy," and therefore contribute to inform the public on the conditions of refugees and asylum seekers.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, based in Geneva, initiated World Refugee Day in 2000. The first edition was held in 2001, for the 50th anniversary of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a.k.a. the "Refugees Convention."

Raising public awareness

World Refugee Day has a dual purpose: it highlights the ongoing projects that help refugees and gives a voice to those who initiate and lead them; it also serves as a reminder to the general public that asylum seeking is the choice of those who don’t have any, and a way to shed light on particular stories, each of which is worth being heard.

The main hope is to raise the public's consciousness and provoke an increased collaboration with associations to promote educational programs for children, including the UNHCR "Educate a Child" program.

The celebration also reiterates the right of every family to a safe place to stay, to work or get the adequate opportunity to become a useful member of a community through reinsertion programs.

Events across Italy

In Italy, the newspaper and internet radio service la Repubblica organized several events, including:

  • WebNotte #WithRefugees: an online talk show that, from June 2 to June 6, welcomed refugees to tell their stories and answer some questions from journalists and the public, in order to shed light on particular stories and understand the global phenomenon of migration through the lens of the individuals who experience it first hand.
  • Sports #WithRefugees: The Associazione Italiana Calciatori (the country's football players' association), with the support of the AS Roma football club, organized on June 18 a friendly football tournament at the famous Stadio Tre Fontane in Rome. The match featured national football stars against the Liberi Nantes, a football team composed of refugees from several countries, to promote integration through sports.
  • Chefs #WithRefugees: The second edition of the Refugees Food Festival will take place this month in Milan, Florence, Bari and Rome. It is a series of culinary events, and restaurants will open their kitchens to refugee chefs.
  • Arts #WithRefugees: A photography exposition and an art gallery will be opening in MAXXI Roma (the Roma museum of Modern Arts) and in the Gallery Alberto Sordi, focusing not only on the issue of migration and migrants, but also on human rights defenders in order to highlight a job that is so often overlooked by the general public.
  • Open House #WithRefugees: The UNHCR, in partnership with local associations such as Arci, Caritas, Welcome or Centro Astalli, all fighting to help refugees, will open to the public some reception centers for refugees and asylum seekers with the aim of giving greater visibility to life in these facilities.

Finally, the UNHCR on June 20 will present its Global trends 2016 report at the Sala dell'Associazione Stampa Estera in Rome. The report consists in a global map of human migration flows and their evolving trends.

Bring the kids!

In addition to the above events, several conferences on the theme of refugee rights and asylum are being organized in Rome by groups such as San Gavino Monreale and the association Caritas.

These include a sports day, plays on the themes of global justice, utopia and bravery, plays for children, and a day dedicated as a memorial to the victims of migration.

GUS - Gruppo umana solidarietà - is organizing this June a long list of local events in many small Italian cities. You can find the list and dates on GUS’s Facebook page.

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