Wednesday, 20 January 2021

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UNHCR and Magnum photos join forces Europe

UNHCR has teamed up with the prestigious Magnum Photos to celebrate the lives of refugees and their impact on Europe over the past six decades, as part of its 60th anniversary activities,

The light show "60 Years, 60 Lives," is appearing in cities across Europe as the annual World Refugee Day (June 20) approaches. It also pays tribute to the humanitarian achievements in Europe over the past 60 years.


The photos in the light show include six images of former refugees across Europe taken by Magnum photographers Antoine D'Agata and Moises Saman – one per decade. The remaining 54 images were provided by refugees who found sanctuary in Europe and each tells a story, condensed into one detail: the violin brought from home, their first document as a refugee, a family snap.

Venues for the light show include the façade of Malta's Fort St. Angelo, the Museumsquartier in Vienna and the Metro system in Rome as well as bars and restaurants in Brussels.

A special showing is planned for members of the European Council and senior European Union officials in the Belgian capital, while thousands of children from around the world will get to see "60 Years, 60 Lives" during the World Scout Jamboree in Sweden later this year. The show will be projected against the EU Parliament building in Brussels, ie. on World Refugee Day, 20 June.

Today, refugees and asylum-seekers are often portrayed in a negative light in Europe. Some politics and media refer to refugees as a burden or a security threat. "This project aims at reframing the asylum debate. Tens of million of Europeans today are the children and grandchildren of refugees," said Melita Sunjic, UNHCR's spokesperson in Brussels.

The history of Europe as a safe haven for refugees is told in more detail on a special web site created by UNHCR and Magnum Photos and launched on Wednesday. The site includes details about the refugees depicted in the photographs, such as company director and former Vietnamese boat person Hien Kieu in the Netherlands and Aida Hadzuahmetovic, who found a safe haven in Slovenia after fleeing Sarajevo as a student in 1993.

Magnum is a cooperative photographic agency founded by legends Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David "Chim" Seymour just three years before UNHCR in 1947. Magnum photographers have documented practically every refugee crisis that UNHCR has been involved in. Some of the most iconic Magnum pictures show refugees.

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Refugees in numbers:

    • Around the world today there are 43.3 million forcibly displaced people. Of these, 27.1 million are internally displaced (IDP) and 15.6 million are refugees.
    • Afghanistan is the leading country of origin for refugees. 2.9 million Afghans live in 71 countries as refugees. Most of them live in Pakistan or Iran.
    • Four out of five refugees are settled in developing countries. 16 % of the refugees are settled in Europe.
    • Pakistan has takes in the highest number of refugees in the world: 1.7 million.
    • Colombia is the county in the word with the most internally displaced people: 3.3 million people.
    • African countries account for 40 % of all IDPs. Conflicts in the Democratic republic of Congo, Sudan and Somalia are crucial factors.


    • Refugee: According to the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951 a refugee is a person who has fled from his or her country because of “well-founded fear of being persecuted”, often for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.
    • Asylum seeker: An asylum seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not been evaluated by the authorities in the country where the person seeks asylum.
    • Migrant: Migrants choose to move for example to improve their future economic prospects. Since they are not forced to move to save their rights or protect their freedom, international law treats them differently.
    • IDP (Internally Displaced People): IDPs have not crossed international boarders, but have moved to find sanctuary within their own country. Even though they flee for similar reasons as refugees, such as armed conflict and human rights violations, they legally remain under the protection of their own government.