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'Protection' the theme as UN activities mark World Refugee Day

20 June 2008 – From recreations of refugee camp life in national capitals to film festivals, food bazaars and fashion shows, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is observing World Refugee Day today with a series of activities around the globe to draw attention to the plight faced by the displaced.

The events, which are supported by UNHCR’s partners, including governments, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the agency’s Goodwill Ambassadors and refugees themselves, also include light shows, photography exhibitions, lectures, concerts, sports competitions, quizzes, essay-writing competitions, tree-planting projects, seminars, workshops and public awareness campaigns.

Using “protection” as the theme of the Day this year, UNHCR is recreating refugee camp life in around 20 capitals. Earlier this week it set up family tents with exhibits of relief items and a burned-out hut in London’s Trafalgar Square to raise awareness of conditions faced by hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Darfur.

Rome's fabled Colosseum is being illuminated with the UNHCR logo and the legend: “Protecting refugees is a duty. Being protected is a right.” In keeping with annual tradition, the soaring Jet d'Eau in Geneva is being bathed in blue light to mark the day.

A photographic exhibition, "Do You See What I See?" is taking place at Geneva's Palais des Nations, the UN's European headquarters, as well as in Yemen and Namibia. Refugee children in Yemen's Kharaz camp and Osire camp in Namibia have documented their lives, hopes and dreams through text and images.

In Syria, a charity concert at the Opera House in Damascus by acclaimed Iraqi oud (lute) player, Naseer Shamma, will raise money for UNHCR's Iraqi refugee programme, which faces a funding crisis.

UNHCR offices in Uganda and Ethiopia have full programmes planned in refugee camps and settlements, while refugee-themed film festivals are being held in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Mexico, Poland and Venezuela.

In India, the highlights include a clothes drive and a cultural extravaganza run by UNHCR as well as a free health camp for refugees, organized by the refugee agency's partner, New Delhi YMCA.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Osvaldo Laport is attending a tent exhibition in Buenos Aires, where the bookshop El Ateneo will be handing out UNHCR bookmarks based on a local awareness campaign.

In neighbouring Chile, President Michelle Bachelet – a former refugee – will meet UNHCR Regional Representative Cristian Koch and refugees living in the country, including some of the more than 100 Palestinians recently resettled in Chile after fleeing the violence in Iraq.

UNHCR's Deputy High Commissioner L. Craig Johnstone will lead World Refugee Day celebrations in the United States, attending a public ceremony and a film screening at the National Geographic Museum in Washington D.C.

A special message from UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has been released on the video-sharing website YouTube around the world, while Sudan-born basketball star Luol Deng is inviting YouTube users and Facebook users to join an online campaign to “Give Refugees a Hand.”

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