Speech delivered by UNHCR’s Representative, Cristina Planas, at Casteliotisa-Nicosia on the occasion of the World Refugee Day 2007

"Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. Special thanks to our financial sponsors, the Ministry of Education and the Archbishopric of Cyprus; to the media contributors for the indispensable dissemination of the game; to the Municipality of Nicosia for this impressive building.

Not incidentally we are hosted in a centuries old building to speak about a tool devised for the youth of Cyprus. We want our message to be equally long lasting. As these walls have endured the passing of centuries, we intend that the contents transmitted through this entertaining and educational tool stand strong against rumours, against misinformation, against wrongly built assumptions.

We aim at transmitting information/concepts, for the stereotypes not to absorb the minds of the youth, BUT for the youth to absorb the reality in the world.

Nobody needs to familiarize the Cypriots with the very complex consequences of population displacement. The game, however, includes additional concepts:

-individualized persecution
-grounds of persecution
-who is an asylum seekers and who is a refugee
-who has the responsibility to examine applications
-where does this responsibility emanate from
-why to escape was the only choice
-why persons suffering persecution need to be distinguished from other type of population movements
-how the process of distinguishing takes place in Cyprus
-why refugees can not return to their countries
-what are the consequences of this recognition as a refugee

Conclusions raise alone from the game it self, its library, its videos. We own the victims of persecution at least UNDERSTANDING, EMPATHY, SUPPORT. Acceptance is to be enriched by tolerance, multiculturalism, advocacy for the respect of their human rights.

This is not only the responsibility of governments. There is a role for the society and the active citizenship as we are accountable as citizens. This is a natural consequence of living in a democracy. Advocating for standards is part of this activism.

The earlier these ideas are shared with the youth, the stronger the multiplier effect and its favourable impact would be.
The game is not only for the youth, but the educators, the parents. Play the game, suggest it to your friends, and show your support.

Along with the lines of activism we have brought today a symbol – CHERRIES--, for the read of blood, suffering, aggression, pain, torture, to be TRANFORMED INTO the red of: acceptance, joy, opportunities, sweetness, satisfactory life in Cyprus.

Please, contribute to this transformation, engage in dialogue/debate, disseminate the asylum concepts, consider facts and look for facts, advocate for adherence to international responsibilities and integration policies.

EAT CHERRIES and each time you do REMEMBER that it is your choice to contribute to the betterment of the lives of people who didn’t have other choice than to run away from their beloved counties.

Thank you."

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