World Refugee Day celebrated at USF listen06/20/08 SeÃ¡n Kinane
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Today is United Nations World Refugee Day 2008. WMNF reports from two celebrations of refugees at the University of South Floridaâ€™s Tampa campus.
USFâ€™s African Students Association (ASA) was one of the student groups that organized a session in the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza around lunchtime. In addition to speakers and tables with information about refugees, several ASA members set up a makeshift refugee camp with carpets to sit on and swept it using a handmade broom.
Another student group that helped organize World Refugee Day at USF was STAND, an anti-genocide coalition. Their USF chapter president is Jen Drenth.
Several students, including Constance Kasimos from the service organization By Your Side dropped off bags of clothes to aid refugees.
In the afternoon, about 100 people attended a conference featuring refugee experts and refugees. Niki Kelly is director of Refugee Youth Programs for the Gulf Coast Jewish Services, one of the groups that organized the conference. She said that there can be intergenerational differences between refugees who are parents and their children.
One of the largest refugee crises in the world is in Iraq, where the U.S.-led invasion and occupation has led to more than 2.7 million internally displaced and 2 million externally displaced refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Rubis Castro is with Lutheran Services of Florida, another group that organized the conference. Castro said that many of those Iraqi refugees will seek asylum in the United States in coming years.
The U.N. estimates that there were more than 4.4 million Palestinian refugees in 2005, and some have been refugees for more than 60 years. There were no Iraqi or Palestinian refugees at either event at USF on Friday. Most were from Africa, including Daniel Agau, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who fled in 1987 when he was about 12. He arrived in the U.S. in 2001.
Kossi Ayah is from Togo and was a refugee in Ghana, but his first months in the United States were rough, including a hospital stay.
USF Associate Provost, Kovi Glover said the number of refugees could be reduced if people stopped making wars.
Former USF President and current executive director of USFâ€™s Patel Center for Global Solutions, Betty Castor attended the refugee conference.
Photo by SeÃ¡n Kinane/WMNF