Encouraging Refugees- the World Refugee Day marked in Pankisi Gorge


Today, 20.8 million people around the world, a number which has been increasing year after year, are the people in concern. Out of this "impressive” number 8.4 million are refugees – people who have fled their countries due to civil wars and ethnic, tribal and religious violence and who cannot return home, 6.6 million are internally displaced persons (IDP) – people who were forced to flee their homes too but unlike refugees have not crossed an internationally recognized border, 2.4 million are stateless people – people without nationality, 1.6 million are returnees – former refugees or IDPs who have returned to their homes, 773,000 are asylum seekers, and 960,000 fall into various categories. For one these are merely statistics and stir up no emotions. But it is worth to pose and think, albeit for a while, about the faith of millions of people who are "hanging on the hopes for basic survival, sustenance and protection, and for the chance to rebuild their lives”. Like us, most of these people were not born as refugees. They deserve the exact same happiness as we enjoy.</p> <p>In 2000, by the UN General Assembly, June 20 was declared "World Refugee Day”. This important decision was aiming at commemorating those who are looking for support and for making us embrace their plight. This year "Hope" is the theme chosen for World Refugee Day in order to pay tribute to unwavering hope of the world’s refugees and displaced persons who have overcome enormous loss and hardship to start anew. Like in previous years, Georgia was not an exception to the worldwide celebration of the World Refugee Day. Events have been taking place for the fifth time in Georgia. On June 19, Chechen refugees from Duisi Public Center enjoyed an opportunity to exhibit and sell flat handicrafts in Shardin Street in Tbilisi. The event was organized by UNHCR and its partner - Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). The Minister of Refugees and Accommodation, Giorgi Kheviashvili and the Resident Representative of UNHCR, Naveed Hussein attended the event. The Day was marked in Tskhinvali region as well. On June 20 the UNHCR together with its partner organizations - the United Nations Association of Georgia (UNAG) and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Technical Assistance of Georgia (TAG), Center for Medical and Psychological Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence, etc. - visited the Pankisi Gorge, place of settlement of around 2000 refugees from Chechnya. The day was celebrated through a series of artistic and cultural events taking place on the ruins of the ancient Duisi outdoor amphitheatre, surrounded by beautiful mountainous scenery. Most of the performances were done by children, either dancers from the ballroom dancing troop who came from the near village of Akhmeta, either singers from local choirs, either refugee children reciting verses in Georgian or performing national dances and theatre plays. The ceremony was closed by the award of prizes to the winners of the sport competitions which had been taking place during the previous days. The Minister of Refugees and Accommodation together with the Resident representative of UNHCR warmly greeted refugees and guests before stressing the importance of celebrating this day together with refugees. "The meaning of celebrating such a day is that many people, who had to flee their country and cannot return to their homelands due to religious, political and other reasons, need all the support we cam give to them” commented Naveed Hussein. The event dedicated to the World Refugee Day took place on 15 June at the Sheraton Metechi Palace where UNHCR brought together the representatives of Georgian print media, TVs, journals and news agencies to inform them about the UNHCR's work, its activities, achievements, and plans. At the meeting not only the issues of refugees, but also the issues concerning internally displaced persons were highlighted and discussed. We all know that Mass media have an immense power and a huge responsibility of in influencing attitudes of millions. This is a fact the UNHCR and its implementing partners are of course aware of. For that very reason, Georgian journalists are proposed trainings and meetings covering international protection issues and terminology definition related to refugees. Also on June 20, the UNHCR gave journalists the opportunity to attend the activities that were taking place for the occasion. In addition, on 20 June 2006, the Georgian State TV "Public Broadcast First Channel” broadcasted the official UNHCR "Global View 2006” video - a 20 minutes documentary film on the current state of the refugee issue around the world – which included a message to all of us by the actress Angelina Jolie, one of the goodwill ambassadors of the UNHCR: "for the millions of refugees around the world, please help to keep their hope alive and remember world refugee day”.