A view of the makeshift shelters at Al-Basma refugee camp in the Deir Zanoun area in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Credit: EPA/NABIL MOUNZER
A view of the makeshift shelters at Al-Basma refugee camp in the Deir Zanoun area in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Credit: EPA/NABIL MOUNZER

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR in Italy chose to tell the story of the data in its Global Trends 2018 report by allowing refugees themselves to speak, on the occasion of World Refugee Day.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, on the occasion of World Refugee Day on June 20, in Italy chose to tell the story of the numbers and estimates in its new Global Trends 2018 report through the voices of refugees themselves. At a press conference in Rome, refugees told about migration and fleeing from wars and persecution by providing live personal accounts. 

Felipe Camargo, UNHCR representative for Southern Europe, said, "What we did today we want to always do: not just numbers and statistics but the voices of refugees". 

Voices of refugees 

"Refugees and new European citizens must have a say, to tell about successful practices and overcome racism and discrimination," said Abdullahi Ahmed during his speech. Ahmed came to Italy from Somalia at 19 years old, arriving in the town of Settimo Torinese, just outside the northern city of Turin, without knowing anyone and without knowing the language. He is now an Italian citizen. "I was welcomed by the Italians; I wasn't considered just a number," he said. "During these years I managed to reach my goals, fleeing from a country where there had been war for years," he said. "The same is true for today: those who are in migrant reception centres need to be assisted in building a new life. Without that support, I couldn't have done it, and if integration is possible for me, it's possible for others. On the other hand, there has to be an answer from citizens, and above all from politicians," he said. 

Sophia Baras, a cultural mediator, has been in Italy for five years, after fleeing Yemen. "There are many reasons to leave one's own country. There are the many visible wars, but also those that go unseen, such as those against women," she said, presenting the main contents in the Global Trends report. "I want the European community to support women for building peace. If we don't give them rights, we will never find peace," she said. 

Hisam Jamil Allawi, a Syrian refugee who is now a cultural mediator, said that "being a refugee is not a choice". He read a poem that he had written for a performance on Syria that took place in Parma. "Seven years and nothing has changed. The chicken is the chicken, the cat is the cat, the wolf is still a wolf. Only the human being has changed, becoming a monster that devours everything. Seven years, and the great lie continues". 

Vanessa Redgrave, 'protect democracy' 

Vanessa Redgrave also participated in the press conference, presenting the documentary film "Sea Sorrow", which marks her directorial debut and represents a reflection on the current crisis situation refugees are experiencing. "I am here above all to pay tribute to the women, mothers, grandmothers, children, young people, and fathers, who have looked for protection under European law," she said. "These people have a profound right to it that cannot be changed," she said. The countries they come from "are destroyed" because "our governments want to sell weapons, which is why there is so much destruction and so many wars". She said that to protect democracy "at any time, in the life of people in any country" there must be protection for refugees fleeing countries at war.

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