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Refugees re-enact iconic image of 1951 UN Refugee Convention’s signing, 70 years on

REFUGEES from seven countries have come together to recreate the iconic image of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention’s signing, 70 years after it was enacted.

The convention, adopted on July 28 1951, formalised the rights of refugees under international law and has since been signed by 149 countries.

The recreation of the original black-and-white image, replacing diplomats with refugees, was organised by the Together for Refugees coalition with the aim of pressuring the British government to continue upholding its obligations to protect asylum-seekers. 

The picture includes refugees from different conflicts over the last 70 years, including those fleeing ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in the 1990s, South African apartheid and Syria’s ongoing war. 

Among them is Gillian Slovo, 69, a well-known author and playwright who fled to Britain from South Africa in 1964 with her mother and two sisters.

Her parents, Joe Slovo and Ruth First, were South African Communist Party leaders famous for their role in the anti-apartheid movement and her mother spent time in solitary confinement in a South African jail.

“In South Africa the police were constant visitors and there was a constant fear that my parents could disappear at any time,” Ms Slovo said. “It didn’t feel like that in England.
 
“I think it’s really important that Britain continues to protect refugees.”

The image is published as the government seeks to push through its new Nationality and Borders Bill, which human rights groups have warned risks tearing up the UN agreement. 

Enver Solomon, a spokesman for Together With Refugees and CEO of the Refugee Council, said the convention had saved hundreds of thousands of lives. 

“These are people who have gone on to make huge contributions to our communities as proud Britons,” he said of those protected by it.

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

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