Minister for Justice attends Gala Film Screening to mark World Refugee Day

04 July 2012

On 20 June 2012, UNHCR Ireland marked World Refugee Day with a gala film screening of the documentary film, “Moving to Mars” at the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield. There were over 100 people in attendance on the evening including the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, TD, 32 members of the Karen Community from Myanmar who have been resettled to County Mayo, members of the diplomatic corps from resettlement states, Department of Justice officials, NGO's, and a small number of members of the public who had won tickets through an Irish Times Reader’s Offer.

The film, Moving to Mars, follows two refugee families from Myanmar over the course of a year that will change their lives completely. Forced from their homeland by the repressive military junta, they have lived in a Thai refugee camp for many years. A UNHCR resettlement scheme offers them the chance of a new life, but their new home, in the British city of Sheffield, will be different to everything they have ever known.

The feature-length documentary from Mat Whitecross (The Road to Guantanamo) depicts the families' moving and sometimes humorous struggles with a 21st century Western European city. Their stories give us a unique insight into the experiences of displaced people throughout the world, whilst showing the human consequences of Myanmar’s political unrest.

The attendance of the Karen Community from County Mayo at the screening brought to life in a very real way the connection between the global and the local. Like the families in the film they came to Ireland at the end of 2007 from a refugee camp in Thailand, Ban Don Yang. They are part of the Irish government’s refugee resettlement programme which it undertakes in conjunction with UNHCR.

The evening was a great success. Minister Shatter was greeted upon arrival by the Karen wearing their own traditional dress and singing Karen songs. Following a short photo call, Ms Sophie Magennis, Head of Office at UNHCR Ireland gave a few words of welcome, which were followed by a brief but moving speech by Ms Hsay Bay Say, who spoke of her own experience of resettlement. Finally the Minister delivered a comprehensive speech dealing with the Irish resettlement programme and reaffirming his commitment to introduce a new Immigration, Protection and Residence Bill as soon as he can.

The audience then enjoyed Mat Whitecross’ beautiful documentary film before proceeding to a wine reception with canapés provided by Kanum Thai Restaurant. Some of the Karen found the film very emotional and said they had relived their own resettlement journey from the refugee camp in Thailand to Ireland when they watched the film. Other members of the audience said they came away with a better sense of the initial tragedy of displacement, understanding better the tragedy of losing one’s home and becoming a refugee.

To read the Minister’s speech click here.

To read Ms Magennis’ speech click here.

See photos from the event here. All photos © Derek Speirs/UNHCR, 20/06/2012, Dublin.

 

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