Refugee Week festival for the county

SUFFOLK is playing host to the Alternative World Cup as part of a festival of celebrations bringing nationalities together from around the globe to mark Refugee Week in the region.

SUFFOLK is playing host to the Alternative World Cup as part of a festival of celebrations bringing nationalities together from around the globe to mark Refugee Week in the region.

Asylum seekers and refugees – representing more than 10 nations – who are living in Suffolk and the surrounding regions have put together a spectacular week-long extravaganza that is taking place simultaneously around the country from June 17-23.

Festivities in the region include the knock-out football tournament in which 24 teams will compete for a trophy, donated by Ipswich Town Football Club at the Suffolk Constabulary HQ.

Laura Griggs, Refugee Week co-ordinator, said: "Refugees Week is all about reminding ourselves of the rich cultural and economic heritage that asylum seekers and refugees have brought – and continue to bring – to the region.

"Refugees have in fact made an enormous contribution to Suffolk. Among the many things that have enriched our lives are their traditional food, dance, music theatre, literature, sculpture and so much more.

"The week is an opportunity for asylum seekers and refugees to show their gratitude the people of Suffolk for offering them sanctuary following their flight from human rights abuses and persecution."

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The seven-day celebration was organised by a regional steering group made up of statutory and voluntary sector members. The group is chaired by the Refugee Council's regional office in Ipswich.

The festivities will be launched on Tuesday, June 18 when celebrated Suffolk artist Chinwe Chukwuogo-Roy will choose winners from three age groups of schoolchildren across Suffolk who took part in the Refugee Week art competition.

The winning schools will receive £250 prize money and the children will win a trip to the BBC Newsround studios to see how a programme is put together. All the artwork will be on display at Ipswich Central Library.

On Thursday, June 20, an evening of international music is planned at L'Apres, Tacket Street, Ipswich.

On Friday, June 21, Suffolk College will host an evening of international music and dance. Refugees and asylum seekers will be performing music, dance and comedy for the local community at the Main Hall in Suffolk College, Ipswich.

Children will also get an opportunity to participate in the festivities at Ipswich Central Library on June 22 where they will be entertained by a puppet show produced following workshop sessions with refugees. The afternoon session will also include story-telling. Performances start at 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

The Alternative World Cup – with more than 10 nationalities taking part – will take place on Sunday, June 23 from 10am with more than 20 five-a-side teams involving including teams from the local police, RAF, BT, Sun Alliance, the Inland Revenue and Sainsburys.

Also on Sunday is an open day for the locals from Suffolk to visit an international allotment at Spring Road that asylum seekers and refugees have been renovating and cultivating in a bid to grow seeds from around the world.

And throughout the week Ipswich Film Theatre will be showing the thought-provoking refugee films Last Resort on Tuesday, June 18 and No Man's Land on June 14, 15, 18, 19 and 20.

Laura added: "Asylum seekers have fled for their lives, having often been subjected to serious human rights abuses.

"Helping to protect them is part of our international moral and legal obligation. Contrary to popular belief, the UK takes less than one per cent of the world's refugees.

"In my experience refugees and asylum seekers want nothing more than to start a new life and become part of their new community. They are eager to learn and contribute their skills."

More than 300 Refugee Week events spanning 20 towns and cities around the UK will take place to mark the fundamental human right for an individual to claim asylum from persecution.

Anyone wanting to take part in the events or more information can contact Laura Griggs at the Refugee Council on 01473 297913 or on 07776 203405.

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