VIENNA, 19 June 2023 - Warm summer temperatures did not stop filmgoers coming to the arthouse cinema, Topkino, for the screening of “Simple as Water” to mark World Refugee Day.
The screening was organized by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Austria.
The discussion afterwards heard from Daniel Bernhart, Head of Family Reunification at the Austrian Red Cross, Pamir Hassas, refugee from Afghanistan and tour guide at UNIS Vienna and Ruth Schöffl, Spokesperson at UNHCR Austria moderated by UNIS Vienna Deputy to the Director, Sonja Wintersberger.
Each panelist brought their unique perspective and expertise to the discussion. Hassas said that the film resonated deeply with his own experience as he recalled the frequent video calls with his family always brought both joy and a feeling of powerlessness. Bernhart works tirelessly to tracing families and offers counselling to refugees who are looking to be reunited with loved ones. He said that the barriers to family reunification have increased over past years.
Schöffl, touched by the film's authenticity, affirmed its accurate representation of the situation of refugees and their families. Across nations, the procedures and restrictions for family reunification vary widely she said, to the distress of many refugees and their overseas relatives. When asked how effective the situation facing refugees is being communicated, Schöffl emphasized the need to show the people behind the numbers and "spread the message" far and wide.
Hassas himself said how vital it was to have a strong protection system, sharing his own positive outcome in that regard, and mentioned the importance of seeking organizational support for family reunification. Bernhart also stressed the significance of family reunification in the process of integration. As the panel discussion drew to a close, one message became clear: unity and collaboration are essential in addressing the challenges faced by refugees.