This is a guest post by Refugee Week partners International Organization for Migration (IOM) UK. It was originally posted on the IOM UK website on February 18 2016

IOM UK is delighted to be part of Refugee Week, a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourages a better understanding between communities. This year’s Refugee Week will take place between 20-26 June 2016, marking World Refugee Day on 20th June, with the theme ‘Refugees Welcome’.

As latest member of the Refugee Week partnership, IOM UK presented the global and UK perspectives on the current migration and refugee situations, alongside with UNHCR UK, at the Refugee Week Conference on Monday 15 February 2016.

Bindu Issac, IOM UK, noted it is unacceptable that people fleeing war, persecution and extreme poverty are dying on the shores of Europe, highlighting it is crucial to provide safe and legal routes to the European Union. Giving the example of refugee resettlement, she reminded how individuals and groups present at the Refugee Week Conference campaigned, among others, to expand the UK government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 through its Syria Resettlement Programme. This number represents an advocacy achievement, but challenges remain such as issues related to family reunification for refugees living in the UK and the responsibility to protect and take care of unaccompanied children. Bindu Issac also underlined the importance of the pre-departure cultural orientation activities led by IOM as one of the first key steps in the journey to welcome refugees in the UK.

The diversity of representatives who attended the Refugee Week Conference illustrates the wide range of arts, voluntary, faith and refugee community organisations, student groups and local authorities involved in Refugee Week. For instance, Ros Ereira and Abdulaziz Almashi, co-founders of Solidarity for Refugees, explained how they co-organised the September 2015 Solidarity with Refugees demonstration, which gathered thousands of people in the streets of London, who took action for all those who are seeking protection. Another march is to take place all around Europe, on 27 February 2016, to support refugees rights. Sue McAlpine, for her part, presented an interactive art and photo exhibition project portraying voices from the Calais camps, to be held in June 2016 as part of the Migration Museum Project.

Marvellous artistic performances by singer and musician Didier Kisala, great Shakespeare poetry revisited by Fatima Diriye, Freddy Macha and Arne Pohlmeier of Bards without Borders and an epic final act by singer-songwriter Yasmin Kadi, accompanied by musician Moses Black, were also part and parcel of the highlights of the Refugee Week Conference. Furthermore, interactive workshops were conducted throughout the day to prepare participants in the organisation of events for the 2016 Refugee Week.

The whole event ran smoothly thanks to the amazing involvement of the Refugee Week team of volunteers.

For more information on Refugee Week and how you can contribute to share your own story of welcome, have a look at the Refugee Week‘s website and follow @RefugeeWeek#RWConference2016 and #RefugeesWelcome on Twitter!