x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE helping refugees get away from war

A campaign to help people displaced from their home countries because of violence or persecution will be launched on World Refugee Day.

DUBAI // A global campaign to protect refugees will be launched today to mark World Refugee Day.

Designed to coincide with the 60th year of the Refugee Convention — which defines state legal obligations to refugees and lists their rights — the "1 Campaign" asserts that even one person forced to flee war or persecution is too many.

Recorded public service announcements by Angelina Jolie, the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will be broadcast on local television channels across the Emirates.

A top UN official in the UAE will also help to raise awareness here. Brigitte Khair Mountain, the head of office and senior adviser at the UNHCR, said recent conflicts in the region had led to more than a million refugees flee Libya, 10,000 Syrian refugees and more than 5,000 refugees in the Turkey-Syrian border. This number is expected to increase in the coming months.

"Of the 43.79 million displaced people, 70 per cent of all refugees are Arabs and Muslims," she said.

Palestinians, Afghans, Iraqis, Somalians and Libyans were among asylum seekers. The figure includes mainly Internally Displaced People, refugees fleeing their homeland, and stateless people.

In the UAE, more than 500 people - mostly Iraqis, Somalis and people from other African states - have been recognised as refugees by the UNHCR while they were living in the Emirates. They have since been resettled in countries including the United States, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

The UNHCR regularly conducts workshops for officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, police and those who work in shelters, training them to help refugees.

Ms Mountain said the UAE had been "responsive and forthcoming" to the regional crisis.

"The UAE is providing a cargo plane to take US$300,000 (Dh1.1 million) worth of supplies to refugees in Tunisia within the next 72 hours. We work very closely with authorities here," she said.

The flight is expected to leave for Tunisia on Thursday and the plane will carry 100 metric tonnes of supplies including tents, blankets and non-food items.

The agency renewed its appeal to the Government to donate to the UN system directly. "The UAE is spending billions. We are encouraging the government to spend multilaterally rather than bilaterally or doing it alone," she said.

pkannan@thenational.ae