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News and Press Releases Sudan: Refugee Congress Gathering Brings New Voice to Us Policy Debat

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Sudan: Refugee Congress Gathering Brings New Voice to Us Policy Debat

12-17-2013, 06:00 AM
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Sudan: Refugee Congress Gathering Brings New Voice to Us Policy Debat

    Sudan: Refugee Congress Gathering Brings New Voice to Us Policy Debate
    BY CHRIS BOIAN, 13 DECEMBER 2013
    United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

    PRESS RELEASE

    Washington, DC, United States — Refugees and asylum-seekers from Syria, Sudan and 20 other nations took steps this week in Washington, DC, to ensure their voices become an integral part of United States policy discussion on how best to protect people fleeing violence and persecution around the world.

    At the end of the 2013 Refugee Congress, organized by UNHCR on Monday and Tuesday, the 48 delegates each signed a letter calling on the US authorities to "invite refugees and other affected persons to participate meaningfully in discussions" on refugee and asylum policy issues.

    The letter was handed by the delegates to their representatives in the US Congress during meetings on the "Advocacy Day" that followed the gathering, an action that participants said underscored the drive to push refugee advocacy forward from the conceptual to the practical.

    "UNHCR supports the Refugee Congress as a way for refugees and asylum-seekers in the United States to help themselves and to develop a credible voice for advocacy," said Shelly Pitterman, UNHCR's regional representative. "I think that this year's Refugee Congress took an important step in the right direction," he added.

    Delegates were also happy with developments. "We have travelled so long and so far," said Ayman Okar, a Syrian delegate to the gathering, which was opened on Monday by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antand#243;nio Guterres and US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Migration and Refugees Anne Richard. "This is something that I have been searching for," added the Syrian refugee, who fled his homeland last year and now lives under temporary protection in the US state of Michigan.

    Okar's gratitude for the safety he and his family have found in the United States and desire to work with government and NGO partners in improving the US resettlement process was echoed by many delegates amid consensus on the need for refugees to have a seat at the policy-making table.

    "That is why I am here - to make sure my voice is part of that process because I think it is a powerful process," said Sigga Jagne, the delegate from Kentucky, who fled from the Gambia after a coup d'état in 1994. "The message I am taking to Capitol Hill is to let our senators and representatives know that this is an American issue, that this is what being American is about."
                  

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