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Real-life stories to illustrate definitions in new refugee dictionary

09 July 2021

UNHCR

THE doyenne of Countdown’s “Dictionary Corner”, Susie Dent, is backing a campaign for a refugee dictionary that will define “refugee” through thousands of stories, launched by the UN Refugee Agency’s UK charity to mark the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention. Anglican archbishops have contributed their own definitions.

Article 1 of the Convention defines a refugee as “a person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.”

The aim of the refugee dictionary is to “remind us of the rich tapestry of stories and futures made possible because of this significant human-rights convention and celebrate the UK’s proud tradition of giving refuge by inviting the public to join in”, a press release from UK for UNHCR says. “Refugees aren’t confined or defined by one word but are individuals with myriad rich stories, hopes and lives.” All are welcome to take part.

For the Archbishop of Canterbury, a refugee is someone “made in the divine image of the God who Himself knew persecution and homelessness”. His predecessor Lord Williams noted that a refugee was “someone who asks us, ‘Are you at home enough with yourselves to let me be at home with you?’” The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, described a refugee as “any of us, if life’s securities shatter. It is me tomorrow if freedoms end.”

Ms Dent’s definition was the mother who sees her child find their smile again, free of turmoil, full of hope”.

Other contributors include the first female Syrian refugee pilot and UNHCR goodwill ambassador, Maya Ghazal.

The book will be published on 28 July.

unrefugees.org.uk/refugeedictionary

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