Cultural events to mark World Refugee Day

17 de junho de 2016

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is hosting debates and art performances to celebrate the date on June 20.

São Paulo – This week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced a special schedule of events on occasion of the World Refugee Day, on June 20. Debates, a photo exhibit, screenings of short videos, and activities featuring the cultures of refugees’ home countries are all part of the program, set to happen in several cities across Brazil.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson in Brazil, Luiz Fernando Godinho, the purpose of the event is to provide food for thought on the reality of people who leave their countries for Brazil to escape war or persecution.

“The event’s schedule is growing more diverse, and we want to send out a message. We intend to show the facts that cause people to leave their countries. We also want to show that they have the ability to make a contribution to society, because they are working people who are trained in myriad professions,” Godinho told ANBA.

Saturday (18) will see the award ceremony of the Refugee edition of the 2016 One Minute Festival, which had 140-plus short video submissions on the topic. During the event, at São Paulo’s Sesc Vila Mariana, refugee children’s choir Coração Jolie will perform. Also on Saturday, refugees and residents from Rio de Janeiro’s port area who are members of group Sabores do Porto (Flavors from the Port) will hold a folk food and handicraft fair.

On Sunday (19), the film project Cine MigrArte (a portmanteau of Migration and Art) will sponsor several activities in Brasília: cinema, music, gastronomy and visual arts by refugees will be featured, as well as a debate on the taboos surrounding asylum-seekers. The event will include the launch of the book A linguagem do coração (The language of the heart).

At the Farroupilha Park in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, a tent will house a photo exhibition and researchers into the topic of refugees will sit down for a conversation. The refugees will engage in cultural activities, and will be able to get legal assistance and information on labor market access. Monday (20) will see the opening of the photo exhibition Vidas Refugiadas (Refugee Lives) at Brasília’s National Museum of the Republic, with pictures portraying the daily lives of female refugees in Brazil.

Godinho said the refugees that keep arriving in Brazil are still having a very hard time adapting, particularly the Syrians, who are the majority. The government and society are working hard to improve the infrastructure to welcome them, but their culture differs greatly from Brazil’s.

“The problems are still there, most of all for those hailing from Syria, because of the culture and the language shock, which is not the case for the Latin or African refugees. Language is and will always be a barrier. They need to learn to speak Portuguese in order to interact with society instead of being in closed-off ghettos,” he said. Another major challenge facing refugees is Brazil’s lingering economic crisis, which makes it hard for them to find work.

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, there are 8,863 refugees from 79 different countries living in Brazil. Over 2,000 of them are Syrian. According to the UNHCR, there are over 20 million refugees around the world.

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*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum