The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) started this week a campaign to highlight the experiences of refugees in Belgium. The campaign, “Integration: the voice of refugees”, is giving refugees a voice and face on buses, trams and bus shelters throughout Belgium.
Their stories also underline how, through language and vocational courses, their career achievements have been made possible by government and private-sector initiatives, as well as by local communities and citizens in Belgium.
“Integrating successfully involves mutual acceptance between refugees and the communities where they live and work,” says Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Regional Representative in Brussels. “Our campaign shows why it is important to welcome them, and how, when refugees feel at home, they can make a real contribution to Belgian society.”
Michael, a refugee from Eritrea who is a qualified X-ray technician and now an interpreter in Belgium, says, “Sometimes we are perceived as uneducated people, whereas many of us have qualifications.” The purpose of this campaign is precisely to help change this perception.
Rania, who fled the war in Syria, has been able to develop her talents in Belgium thanks to her passion for research in the field of pharmaceutical sciences.
“At the University of Mons I was lucky to be able to register as a PhD student in pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences,” she says. “We want to contribute to the progress of this society which has welcomed us.”
The campaign continues across Belgium until 13 May in two forms: Six portraits will be displayed on public transport in Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Hasselt, Leuven and Mechelen as well as on bus shelters in Charleroi, Liège, Mons, Namur, Tournai, Waterloo and Wavre. The campaign is complemented by a series of fifteen refugee testimonials released on www.unhcr.org/be/paroles-de-refugies and social media.