Einstein Poster - UNHCR collaboration with Nicosia Bus Company

“A bundle of belongings isn’t the only thing a refugee brings to his new country… Einstein was a refugee”

This is the reading of a UNHCR poster with Einstein’s portrait that currently travels with Nicosia buses, reminding us that refugees can contribute in all sorts of ways to the hosting society if they get a second chance to rebuild their lives in their new country.
A reading that is calling everyone – State, individuals, private corporations - to approach refugees not as a burden to the society but as persons with their own skills, energy and talent able to complement and enrich anyone who responds to their call for inclusion; the corporation that offers them employment, the individual who offers them a warm smile and eventually the country that offers them asylum.

Responding to this call, the Nicosia Bus Company, agreed to spread this message by displaying UNHCR Einstein posters on 35 Nicosia buses for 4 months. By showing its human face and engagement in socially sensitive issues, the pioneering company joined UNHCR’s efforts in enhancing awareness and sensitivity on refugee issues from January 2009.

One of the misperceptions surrounding refugee issues is that refugees are a burden to the hosting society. Certainly, the example of Einstein as well as other prominent refugees, such as Isabel Allende, Bertolt Brecht, Sigmund and AnnaFreud, Rudolf Nureyev, dispel this myth.

But not only prominent refugees want and are able to contribute.

If States adopt appropriate integration programmes, if societies welcome refugees and give them the opportunity to work and become part of the society then like anyone else, refugees will produce goods, provide services, spend their wages and pay taxes, thus contributing to the wealth and diversity of the countries they settle in.

Building public awareness and calling for active engagement of everyone is an indispensable prerequisite for effective integration of refugees and an integral part of UNHCR’s work. Only if the local population has an understanding of the reasons why refugees are forced to flee and why refugee protection is a moral and legal obligation of all European countries, populations will strive to create an environment and the conditions within which refugees can actually rebuild their lives.

UNHCR Representation in Cyprus has undertaken a number of other public awareness projects , such as the website refugee game Taxidi Fygis for students, parents and teachers, the HOPE campaign in 2006 and the on going photographic exhibition “PROTECTION: What refugees need”. For more information one can visit UNHCR in blog at http://unhcr-cyprus.blogspot.com/ .

Similar bus campaigns that have been successfully used in other cities like Athens and Madrid can be positive not only in terms of awareness raising but also in improving the aesthetic feel of our industrialized cities, with colours, friendly faces, hope and inspiration.

You can find a link presenting a few other prominent refugees here.

UNHCR Representation in Cyprus
March 2009

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