UN marks World Refugee Day in Damascus
21 June 2015, 07:22
Damascus - The UN's refugee agency marked World Refugee Day Saturday in Damascus, calling on the global community not to ignore the plight of millions of people around the world displaced by war and persecution.
The main aim of the campaign is to "get to know the refugees and bring them closer to the public," said Ajmal Khaibari, the deputy head of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees mission in the Syrian capital.
"We want to show that refugees are normal people who live in exceptional circumstances."
Saturday's event was held at the Four Seasons hotel, one of the most luxurious venues in Damascus, for "security reasons," a UNHCR official said.
Many refugees were present for the occasion.
"It's not very normal for a refugee. We're not used to luxury; my situation doesn't allow for that," said Bashar Nazir Abdallah, a 29-year-old physics teacher from Iraq who has been living in Damascus for six months.
"I never imagined I'd set foot in the Four Seasons," said Hassan al-Sadeq Ahmad, a Sudanese student who arrived in Syria eight years ago.
"It's great to dedicate a day to refugees. They must be given importance."
Syria's four-year civil war has killed more than 230 000 people and forced around half the population from their homes.
UNHCR says close to four million have fled the country as refugees, mainly to neighbouring countries that struggle to cope with the influx.