Ethiopia: Refugees laud country’s hospitality on World Refugee Day
09 July 2010

A young Somali girl near her home in Addis Ababa. (Angela Hellmuth/JRS)
“Never give up. Never give up. Never give up,” he quoted former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, encouraging refugees to persevere.

Addis Ababa, 24 June 2010 –  "Ethiopia has a long history in hosting refugees, dating back as far as 1,300 years ago. Until to date, the governments of the country have continued to be hospitable and humane to all refugees who come in search of peace and security," said Ahmed Abdella Gedar, Chairperson of the Urban Refugees Community, at a recent event commemorating World Refugee Day in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

JRS Ethiopia marked the event on June 24, 2010 with almost 700 urban refugees, invited guests, partners and staff, the largest number ever.

The celebration took off with a song by the children’s choir entitled "I am strong". It depicted this year’s theme "They took my home, but they can’t take my future", describing the hardships refugees face and calling for their perseverance.

"The whole idea of marking World Refugee Day is to celebrate and acknowledge the indomitable spirit and courage of the world’s refugees," said Seyoum Asfaw, JRS Ethiopia Director in his welcoming speech. "Through this event we express our encouragement, support and respect to the world’s refugees. Moreover, it is an occasion to reinforce the obligation of states to protect refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)," he added. 

"If given the opportunity, refugees have the potential to improve their future," Mr. Asfaw continued. "They have a lot to contribute to the social and economic development of their host countries." He also drew attention to the various needs of refugees and called for a joint effort to respond to these needs.

"This event is meant to create awareness and bring the plight of refugees to the attention of the public," said Ayalew Aweke, Deputy Director of the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), the government refugee agency. "Nobody can take the refugees’ future," he added. He also thanked JRS for organising the event. "I would like to renew our commitment," Mr. Ayalew said, emphasising that, with the assistance of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), ARRA continues to do its best in order to alleviate the problems refugees face although the problems are enormous and cannot all be resolved.

UNHCR representative, Moses Jo Okelo, acknowledged the hospitality of the Ethiopians and thanked the Ethiopian government for hosting refugees. "Never give up. Never give up. Never give up," he quoted former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, encouraging refugees to persevere.

The whole programme, which was organised in the compound of the JRS Refgee Community Centre (JRS/RCC), was interspersed with songs from the JRS children’s choir, traditional music and contemporary dance by a music group from a partner organisation, cultural dance by refugees from eastern Africa and the Great Lakes Region, poetry recital and a live music competition.

Finally, refugees who demonstrated outstanding performances in the areas of informal education, sports and music were given awards by Mr. Ayalew, Mr. Okelo and Mr. Asfaw.

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