Night of Creative Expressions in Celebrating Strength, Courage of Refugees

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 June 2007 - The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) celebrated World Refugee Day with Malaysians in an evening of creative expressions by young Malaysians and refugees, here tonight.

"On this day, UNHCR together with our Malaysian friends and counterparts, want to celebrate the spirit, strength and determination of refugees," said Dr Volker Türk, UNHCR Representative. "We are humbled by their experience, stunned by their creativity and resourcefulness, as well as deeply grateful for the courage they demonstrate."

The theme of World Refugee Day 2007 is "The Unheard Voices of Refugee Children".

"Tonight's performances show refugees, especially refugee children - in a very human light - just like every other child, they have immense capacity for creativity and they too have a voice that wants to be heard," said Dr Türk.

Auditorium Taman Budaya Kuala Lumpur was seated to its 250 person-capacity as over 50 refugee children took to the stage to sing songs that spoke of their love for their homeland that they have had to leave behind.

A hush fell over the theatre as four Malaysian songwriters - Reza Salleh, May Chern, and Zalila Lee stood on the stage and each delivered three original compositions that related their humanitarian concerns.

As an apt finale to the night of celebration, a joyous dance was performed - a collaborative effort between students of the Dance Programme at the Akademi Seni, Budaya dan Warisan (ASWARA) and Rohingya children.

The evening was attended by guests and friends of UNHCR from the diplomatic community, Governmental agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations, other UN agencies, the academia, private sector and UNHCR volunteers.

Dr Türk said that refugees cannot return home to their countries of origin. They left them, often under most dangerous circumstances, with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs, because of war, serious human rights violations, discrimination or simply because they had the wrong religion, gender, political opinion or race.

"We have been constantly inspired by the incredible courage of the refugees we help and protect. While every refugee's story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage - the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives."

There are some 37,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Malaysia today.

World Refugee Day is held on 20 June every year. It is a salute to the indomitable spirit and courage of the world's refugees, not just in enduring the dangers and violence of the crises that made them refugees, but also in the courage they show in rebuilding their lives and contributing to society in difficult or unfamiliar circumstances.

Note to Editor THE UN REFUGEE AGENCY (UNHCR) leads and coordinates international action to protect and assist refugees and find long term solutions for their plight. UNHCR strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek international protection and find safe refuge in another state, and to return home voluntarily if circumstances so permit.

In Malaysia, UNHCR works with Malaysian partners to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. World Refugee Day 2007 is jointly organised by UNHCR with volunteers, NGO partners, refugee communities and with the support of Malaysian individuals and corporations.

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