Sheffield refugee helps re-create iconic image from UN Convention on its 70th anniversary

A Sheffield-based volunteer has marked 70 years since the UK signed the UN refugee convention by helping to recreate an iconic photograph from the day.

By Alastair Ulke
Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 12:01 am
UNHCR. Signature of the 1951 Refugee Convention in Geneva, Switzerland / the three seated men (l-r): Mr. John Humphrey, Director of the Human Rights Division; Mr. Knud Larsen (Denmark) President of the Conference; Dr. G.V. van Heuven Goedhart, High Commissioner for Refugees / copyright Arni / UN Archives / August 1, 1951.
UNHCR. Signature of the 1951 Refugee Convention in Geneva, Switzerland / the three seated men (l-r): Mr. John Humphrey, Director of the Human Rights Division; Mr. Knud Larsen (Denmark) President of the Conference; Dr. G.V. van Heuven Goedhart, High Commissioner for Refugees / copyright Arni / UN Archives / August 1, 1951.

Khaled Aljawad Alhussaini, 24, joined 20 other refugees living in the UK today to take the place of the 1951 diplomats in the historic image.

The recreated photograph features refugees from each of the seven decades since the convention. It aims to celebrate Britain’s history of protecting refugees and to urge that it is upheld for the future.

Khaled lives with his brother and mother. They arrived in the UK in 2018 after being resettled via the Government’s Vulnerable Persons and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

Refugees from 7 decades mark the 70th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention which takes place on 28 July, 2021.

They left Syria to escape the bitter civil war and lived in Jordan until being selected to be resettled in the UK.

Khaled and his brother are their mother’s sole carers. Today, he is studying English and helps support new refugees in his local area. In recent months he has also started volunteering at his local food bank.

He said: “When I arrived in England I felt ‘I am in a safe place now, I can study, I can do something good for my family’.

Refugees don’t have any choice about the problems they are facing. It is important that Britain protects refugees. It’s the same as a person who doesn’t swim, in the middle of the sea, and he sees a piece of wood. It gives hope.”

The iconic photo from the signing of the UN Refugee Convention in 1951 has been recreated by refugees from across those seven decades.

The recreated photograph was created by coalition campaign Together With Refugees.

Enver Solomon, a spokesperson for Together With Refugees and CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “Seventy years ago, after the horrors of World War Two, the UK signed the Refugee Convention.

“We gave our commitment to protect people fleeing war and persecution.

“Since then, it has saved hundreds of thousands of lives – from those fleeing ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, torture in Zimbabwe or war in Syria. These are people who have gone on to make huge contributions to our communities as proud Britons.

“And we must continue to safeguard this promise of safety.”

The UN Refugee Convention 1951 formalised the rights of refugees under international law. It means that countries signed up to it have a legal duty to protect those fleeing persecution and serious harm in other countries. Some 149 countries have signed up to this law, including the UK.

It comes after Parliament last week debated the Nationality and Borders Bill, which Together With Refugees says would mean thousands of vulnerable people escaping persecution who would be currently accepted as refugees would no longer be given safety in the UK.

Priti Patel announced last week that refugees arriving through legal routes would get indefinite leave to remain from October.

If the bill is passed, asylum seekers could be imprisoned for up to four years if they are arrested in the Channel without authorisation to enter the UK.

Labour accused the Government of trying to create a “two-tiered” approach to asylum claims.