This year IOM became an official partner of Refugee Week in the UK, celebrating the contributions of refugees and marking the continued need for protection and support of forced migrants.
The theme for 2016’s Refugee Week was “Welcome”, with a variety of organizations hosting events and activities demonstrating the UK’s welcoming attitude toward refugees.
IOM partners the UK Home Office, providing pre-departure services to refugees coming to the UK. Prior to their arrival in the UK, IOM provides refugees with full medical checkups, travel documentation, cultural orientation and transport.
To mark Refugee Week and provide a genuine sense of welcome for refugees, IOM launched a call for Portraits of Welcome. In two separate Refugee Week events at the Southbank Centre and the British Museum in London, members of the public were invited to a story booth to provide a personal message of welcome for refugees and have their photograph professionally taken by artist Marcia Chandra.
Staff from IOM UK interviewed participants to collect their personal stories and ideas of welcome, and Marcia Chandra captured engaging portraits to put the faces to these stories. Portraits and accompanying quotes were printed on the spot for participants to take away with them and to add to a growing exhibition for the public.
These portraits will also be translated into Arabic and posted in the IOM run cultural orientation classrooms in the MENA region for Syrian refugees, providing them with a genuine sense of the welcoming community awaiting them in the UK.
“Portraits of Welcome” proved to be a highly popular event, collecting over 50 portraits from participants of all different backgrounds, and engaging the interest of countless others. IOM was therefore able to not only build a sense of community for refugees, but also raise awareness in the broader community of what they can do to help welcome refugees.
The portraits will be posted online through IOM UK’s website and the global IOM social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr) to be shared with the broader community.