Campaign to ease plight of child refugees

A campaign to sensitize Athenians to the problems faced by child refugees and to raise funds to improve their quality of life, launched this week by the Athens Municipality and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also aims to stress the humanitarian message of the Olympics as well as promoting sport as an opportunity for young refugees to meet other children on an equal plane. The campaign’s messages are to be propagated via 300 billboards on bus stops across the city and in adverts in all modes of the mass media until April 4. Meanwhile, citizens can make donations – which will go toward a program for improving sports and educational infrastructure for refugee girls in the Horn of Africa – by sending a text message titled OHE (Greek for UN) to the number 4525 at the cost of one euro. «For child refugees, sport offers an escape from the reality of their lives in encampments, and brings them closer to the everyday lives of their peers in parts of the world where there is peace and stability,» the UNHCR’s representative in Athens, Robert White, told Monday’s press conference. He added that children account for 40 percent of the world’s 20 million estimated refugees – around 8 million of whom are children. «The ‘games’ in which refugee children play are not fair… they do not play according to predetermined rules and under the watchful eye of an audience and referees,» Athens’s Deputy Mayor Theodoros Skylakakis told press conference on Monday. «However – and it has been proven by programs such as these – sport provides an escape. It is a way for them to show their talent, enjoy equal opportunities and equal treatment as ‘the others’ and understand the meaning of rules, rights, responsibilities, team spirit, dialogue and sharing,» he added. According to the UNHCR, only 28 out of 8,178 applications for asylum lodged by refugees last year were approved. An estimated 500 refugee orphans are currently living in Greece.

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