By Nii Ako Sowa |07 August 2016

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Ghana Refugee Board, as part of preparations towards World Refugee Day, organized a workshop for representatives of some media houses in Accra on June 13, 2016.

The theme of the one-day workshop was Reporting Refugee Issues and was aimed at improving media training on how to better report issues concerning refugees, and to give participants an understanding of the role of the government, UNHCR, Civil Society and other partners in the management of refugees.

With an exponential increase in the numbers of persons displaced by conflict to an all-time high since the Second World War, there has been an increase in public anxiety – which often results in intolerance and misinformation about refugees. To help counteract this atmosphere of intolerance, this year’s World Refugee Day revolves around the launch of the #WithRefugees Campaign whose call-to-action is an appeal to stand in solidarity with refugees.

The approach of the #WithRefugees Campaign is to engage those who have limited understanding of the UNHCR or refugees to take a first small step towards becoming a supporter by making the refugee problem more tangible and accessible for the public by telling authentic refugee stories. The workshop for reporters was therefore a very important first step in that process.

He therefore hoped that at the end of the workshop, the participants would be able to report more accurately on refugee issues so as to help clear the misunderstanding and apprehension some members of the general public might have towards refugees. The participants, drawn from 10 media houses in Accra were made to understand the legal definition of a refugee, as well as the differences between a refugee, asylum-seeker and an economic migrant. Other topics treated include; the role of the Ghana Refugee Board, the role of UNHCR, the rights and responsibilities of refugees, as well as an overview of the UNHCR operations in Ghana.

Mr. Edmund Quartey, Assistant Protection Officer of UNHCR Ghana, in his presentation, distinguished between refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants, and provided information on referral pathways to use when members of the general public encounters either of these categories of persons. He emphasized the role of government in providing access to basic and protection assistance to all persons in their territory, including refugees and asylum-seekers. However, he assured participants of UNHCRs continued partnership with governments and other stakeholders in refugee management.

Madam Doris Tagoe, Eligibility Officer at the Ghana Refugee Board encouraged participants to feel free to get in touch with the Ghana Refugee Board or UNHCR for clarifications on any refugee-related matters in order to be accurate in their reportage. In his presentation on Reporting Refugee Issues, Mr. Nii Ako Sowa, Public Information Associate of UNHCR Ghana acknowledged the important role the media plays in advocating for the refugee cause. However, he advised journalists to be circumspect with the information and images they gather from refugees given the fact that they are usually fleeing from an aggressor and have special protection needs.

All the sessions were very interactive, and participants displayed an eagerness to get to know more about refugee issues and the roles that the various stakeholders played in their management. Participants were very grateful for the opportunity, and were full of praise for the UNHCR and GRB for organizing such an informative session to help them do their work better. World Refugee Day is celebrated worldwide on June 20, to honor the courage, strength and determination of the over 50 million women, men, girls and boys who are forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.

On this day, UNHCR and partners, including governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, the media and other concerned private individuals and institutions around the world help raise awareness on refugee issues. In Ghana, the National World Refugee Day event will be commemorated at the Fetentaa Camp in the Brong Ahafo Region, and will feature a colorful display of culture, arts and crafts and will be climaxed with the inauguration of a newly built modern Clinic donated by the UNHCR to the Fetentaa Community.

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