As World Refugee day (20th June) dawns, tens of thousands of people have visited the British Red Cross site to watch movie star Dougray Scott and change their online status in support of refugees as part of the British Red Cross “Look Beyond the Label” campaign.
Facebook proved the most popular channel on which to pledge support - with thousands downloading the status picture for their profile and changing their status message – other sites showing strong support include followed by Twitter, Bebo, Yahoo! and MSN.
The Red Cross’ www.lookbeyondthelabel.org campaign, part of the annual Refugee Week (June 15 - 21), is the first time a charity has created an online movement to pledge support and tackle discrimination via online profiles.
The “Look Beyond the Label” campaign encourages people to put themselves in the situation of so many refugees arriving in the UK by giving up their (online) public identity and changing their online status across all social networks, Twitter, instant messenger and email and to link to the www.lookbeyondthelabel.org site.
www.lookbeyondthelabel.org hosts a wealth of information on Refugee Week and refugee issues and brings visitors face-to-face with refugee stories through a series of video interviews with individuals who came to the UK as refugees.
These short films have been introduced by a unique online film trailer presented by Desperate Housewives and New Town Killers star, Dougray Scott, which has already received well over 12,000 views in the run up to Refugee Week across a range of social media platforms.
“Look Beyond the Label is a great way of highlighting the massive contribution those with refugee backgrounds make to life in the UK,” said Nick Scott-Flynn British Red Cross head of refugee services.
“By looking beyond the label we can begin to see the full range of skills, talents and contributions individuals have made, and are making, to society.”
The findings of a recent poll from the Red Cross highlighted the need to raise awareness of the truth about refugee issues in the UK particularly amongst young people.
The poll showed generally positive attitudes to refugees (92% of people gave at least one positive association with refugees compared to 48% of people who gave one or more negative associations) yet the public massively over-estimate refugee numbers in the UK.
• On average people think the UK hosts almost a quarter of the world’s asylum seekers - eight times the actual figure.
• Most people think refugees are largely low-skilled workers in their country of origin rather than professionals - in fact the opposite is true.
• The 18 to 24 year old group were also the most likely to assume refugees came from a low-skilled background
The campaign takes a two-pronged approach to tackling prejudice: by creating an immediate connection between the audience and the stars of the videos - three individuals who came to the UK as refugees from Bosnia, Zimbabwe and Rwanda and by using social media to engage with the debate directly to present the real facts of the situation on sites like Yahoo! Answers http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/my/profile?show=L5dwEdnZaa
Dorothea Arndt, director of Digital at the British Red Cross said “We view the internet as a key mechanism for driving personal interaction and engaging supporters at a grassroots level. It is widely acknowledged that friends are often the most influential in changing opinion and the level of engagement we have seen with our site suggests that this peer-to-peer approach is having a considerable impact on tackling misconceptions and discrimination surrounding refugees in the UK”
Notes to Editors
The survey was commissioned by the British Red Cross and conducted by ICM as part of the Look Beyond the Label campaign to coincide with Refugee Week.
The Look Beyond the Label campaign was developed by the creative and ePR departments of leading digital marketing and technology agency, LBi.com.
Refugee Week takes place from 15 to 21 June. The week is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrates the contribution of refugees in the UK, and encourages a better understanding between communities. The British Red Cross is one of ten partner agencies involved. For more information visit www.lookbeyondthelabel.org or www.refugeeweek.org.uk.
The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.
We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.
Each year the British Red Cross supports thousands of refugees in a wide number of ways, from providing emergency provisions for those facing severe hardship to giving orientation support and friendly advice to the most vulnerable. Our services include: orientation, destitution, support for young people and women, and family reunion and resettlement.
For further information and interviews contact Mark South
Contact number 0207 877 7042 / 07982017868