UNHCR Austria

To mark the International Day of Peace, Doaa visited the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Austria on September 21st. UNHCR works with partners and communities to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country. For over half a century, UNHCR has helped millions of people to restart their lives.

Doaa poses with a poster for a prior book event featuring her and Melissa Fleming

Today, UNHCR is dealing with the “highest levels of displacement on record”:

  • An unprecedented 5 million people around the world have been forced from home.
    Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
  • There are also an estimated 10 million stateless peoplewho have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
  • Nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two secondsas a result of conflict or persecution

UNHCR has been of support to Doaa in many ways. Its resettlement program made it possible for Doaa, her parents and some of her siblings to restart their lives in Sweden. Melissa Fleming, the Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for UNHCR, journeyed to visit Doaa soon after she was rescued from the harrowing boat attack. The two women developed an instant bond, and that connection led to Fleming’s related book: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea.

From left: Doaa Al Zamel, Ruth Schöffl, Rania Ali and Marie-Claire Sowinetz at the UN Vienna

UNHCR Austria is part of the dedicated team operating in 138 countries around the world, from major capitals to remote and often dangerous locations.

Among its many activities, UNHCR Austria launched the Long Day of Flight (Lange Tag der Flucht) in 2012. This annual event provides Austrians, refugees and asylum seekers with the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn more about the “other” at workshops, readings, exhibitions, cinema presentations, discussions and other events.

In addition to a comprehensive general program, each year the Long Day of Flight conducts a special program for school classes. During workshops, readings, plays, etc. students learn about escape, asylum and integration to gain news perspectives and reduce prejudices.

Doaa joined Rania Ali in visiting the UNHCR Austria office on the International Day of Peace to support with preparation for the Long Day of Flight events happening the following week. After a briefing with representatives Ruth Schöffl and Marie-Claire Sowinetz, they took part in social media photo shoots and other outreach activities.

It was Doaa’s second visit to the United Nations Vienna in 2018. Earlier in the year, she had spoken at a three-day event focused on female empowerment.