Speech delivered by the UNHCR Representative in Cyprus, Cristina Planas, at the launching of the World Refugee Day 2006 fashion T-shirt

"Mrs Papadopoulou, Your Grace, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear partners, colleagues and friends. Thank you for joining us today to pay tribute to the refugees on their special day.

On this World Refugee Day, we honour the nearly 21 million refugees and displaced people all over the world who, on the strength of HOPE have overcome their fears to start rebuilding their lives. Yesterday it was fear for their lives, fear for the fate of their families, fear for the violation of their basic freedoms that forced them to flee their countries. This fear left them with nothing except the one possession that nobody can take away: hope. -The indestructible hope for one day finding a place to rebuild their lives. A place to call home.

“Keeping their hope alive is the responsibility of everyone…”; “…All of us can do our part to give hope to the uprooted – from a simple welcoming smile to refugees in our own communities, to the direct involvement of individuals, companies, and governments in supporting the projects of the humanitarian agencies caring for the uprooted”.

Being the responsibility of everybody, this year’s project in Cyprus is about bringing people together, bringing sectors together, bringing parts of the society together to a mutual understanding, for the acceptance of a reality, the reality that many of us live in freedom, while others live under persecution. Once this is accepted, there comes the need to do something to alleviate this unbalance. This event may represent the seed of the voice of Cyprus, the voice of a society that doesn’t want more of this unbalance and until it can do more to redress it, at least will do its best to alleviate its consequences, all standing for principles and for solutions, maximizing, -each one of us-, our potential to influence others on this human dimension. Acting together, expressing views, reacting to events, rejecting what is not right, putting things in place. This fashion t-shirt project demonstrates that in Cyprus the humanitarian and business sectors meet, the dividing line is getting finer. The objectives from each sector do not need to be in competition, but all meeting in one point: better life for all.

Cyprus hosts around 600 refugees and more than 12,000 asylum seekers. As the UN Refugee Agency in Cyprus, with a supervisory role in protecting this group of people, we were touched by the sympathy shown by individuals and companies who offered their in-kind and cash contribution in making the public awareness purpose of World Refugee Day possible. This is an invaluable tool in protecting refugees, contributing to the building of a positive public opinion. Without positive public opinion, HOPE would be for refugees the last possession to lose.

The t-shirt (vividly displayed in this room…) that we are launching today reflects the theme “HOPE” in a campaign that aims at informing and sensitizing about the refugee cause.
We hope that YOU can´t wait to buy it! The proceeds of the t-shirts will benefit asylum seekers and refugees in Cyprus through enhancing our support, advocacy and supervisory capacity.
Mrs Papadopoulou, thank you for honoring us with your presence today; for your understanding each time we have discussed refugee issues; for making yourself available in times of conflict; with my admiration for that, UNHCR´s Representation in Cyprus counts on the continuation of this support at the substantive level.

Before I pass the floor to Ms Kika Ioannidou, who will explain to us how she was inspired/// and to whom I’m particularly thankful -as she created the design and supervised the production of the t-shirt entirely for free-///, please allow me to express my gratitude to all other sponsors of these year’s activities, namely:

- Marketway….; for their incalculably valuable contribution, for the enthusiasm of the TEAM while taking charge of all the stages of the promotion of these events.
- Marina Shacolas, the artistic photographer of the campaign
- MEGA channel, our media sponsor
- J&P
- Areeba
- Groupe Carrefour, (Chris Cash & Carry)
- The computer company New Cytech
- Cyprus Youth Organization
- -Bishopric of Larnaca
- The British Council of Cyprus
- The Nicosia Municipality for offering Melina Merkouri Hall free of charge
- KEO, Bishopric of Kykkos, Lanitis Brothers for offering us drinks

- For the screening of the films we are thankful to the Swedish and Swiss Embassy, Intercollege and Rialto theater in Limassol

- Thanks also to our friends Felicity and Christakis Christofides
- To the Pharos Trust who dedicated the 28 May concert to the refugees.

The t-shirt is awaiting to go home with you!

Thank you very much for your attention. I now pass the floor to Kika, our fashion designer……."

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