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WASHINGTON (August 3, 2011)—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is sponsoring four refugees to attend the UNHCR Refugee Congress August 2-4, in Washington. Hailing from Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Bhutan, these refugees were successfully resettled to the United States by the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). They live now in places like Jackson, Mississippi; Charleston, West Virginia; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Chicago and, this week, they will have a chance to share their stories and experiences with other refugees and to participate in an advocacy day, August 4, on the Hill.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the United Nation’s Refugee Convention, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will hold its first Refugee Congress with refugees from across the country who were resettled at various times throughout the history of the U.S. resettlement program. The congress will bring together over 50 refugees to discuss their resettlement experiences and to provide insight and guidance on how the international community’s response to refugee protection and in particular, resettlement in the U.S., can be strengthened in the future.
Participants will look at ongoing and future challenges in refugee protection and refugee resettlement, and then share their findings and recommendations with their Congressional representatives. They hope their testimonies make an important contribution at a time when refugee admissions to the U.S. have been drastically reduced. The proceedings and recommendations from the Refugee Congress will also be shared at the UNHCR ministerial meeting in Geneva later this year and with other stakeholders involved in U.S. refugee resettlement.
The four refugees sponsored by MRS include:
“What people often do not understand is that refugees are legal residents and make positive and productive contributions to the community,” said one of them as he expressed hopes that his testimony and advocacy will help to encourage greater attention to refugees and raise awareness within larger communities about refugees living in their midst.
The UNHCR Refugee Congress coincides with MRS’ annual National Resettlement Convening, August 3-5, which brings together about 170 resettlement directors and other representatives from their network. The convening has several tracks, including children and families, mental health, resource development and program management. Both groups will join together in meeting with their representatives for advocacy day on August 4.
Keywords: refugees, resettlement, Refugee Congress, Migration and Refugee Services, MRS, USCCB, UNHCR
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