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UNHCR: Urban refugees' lives through lens

07-22-2010 08:50 BJT

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Organized by the UN Refugee Agency, a photo exhibition capturing the resilience of urban refugees opened Tuesday at the Three Shadows Photography Art Center in Beijing.

The show attempts to raise more public awareness of those long forgotten people living in the cities who have suffered neglect for such a long time.

They are residents of the cities.

But they don't exist.

Entitled "Invisible in the Cities: The Lives of Urban Refugees," the stark black and white photo exhibition vividly documents the struggles and hopes of refugees displaced within their own countries in South Africa, Malaysia, and Colombia. The exhibit highlights the misery of human life juxtaposed against the beauty of the human spirit.

The show attempts to raise more public awareness of those long forgotten people living in the cities who have suffered neglect for such a long time.
The show attempts to raise more public awareness of those long forgotten people
living in the cities who have suffered neglect for such a long time.

Working soberly behind a tenebrous yet fond lens is award-winning photographer Zalmai, who himself was a former Afghan refugee. The show is a result of Zalmai's commission by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It previously opened at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo to coincide with the World Refugee Day on June the 20th, when Chinese actress Yao Chen was appointed as the honorary patron for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

At the show's Beijing stop, Yao Chen told the public that her recent trip to the Philippines to meet refugees dispelled the image most people in China have that refugees are people with thin faces and fearful eyes living in makeshift camps.

Yao Chen, UNHCR honorary patron, said, "Refugees don't ask much for financial support. Most of the refugees I've met don't say 'give us money'. They just want protection. I think it is the mental affliction that they suffer the most."

50 percent of the world's 15.2 million refugees are now living in cities and towns across the globe. Together with the global urbanization, refugees have been steadily moving to cities, mostly in developing countries, a trend that has accelerated since the 1950s.

The photo exhibition runs at the Beijing Three Shadows Photography Art Center until August the 19th.


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