Millions of Japanese expected to tune in to TV drama about UNHCR

News Stories, 27 May 2009

© Courtesy of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation)
In a TV drama, a UNHCR worker played by actress Kazue Fukiishi gets a call that her former husband may have been attacked while working in Afghanistan.

TOKYO, Japan, 27 May (UNHCR) Will the dynamic, unusually outspoken Japanese UNHCR office worker Rika win the heart of the handsome American aid worker Ed? Or will he head back to the field to help refugees in Africa?

Japanese public TV broadcaster NHK is betting millions of viewers will tune in to a new drama over the next five weeks to find out and in the process learn a lot about the UN refugee agency and refugees in Japan as well as around the world.

Beginning this Saturday and running through July 4, the period straddling World Refugee Day, the drama "Plastic Sheeting in the Wind" will be broadcast in prime time on Saturday nights. The drama is based on an award-winning novel of the same name, with acting revolving around UNHCR's Tokyo office, recreated in astonishing detail on a film set in the suburbs of Tokyo.

The main character is a fictional public information assistant named Rika Kudo, played by up-and-coming Japanese actress Kazue Fukiishi.

"I knew about refugee issues from TV news, especially on emergencies, but it was something that I would see as people suffering somewhere far away on the other side of the globe" says Fukiishi, reflecting a widely-held Japanese view.

"During the course of acting as UNHCR staff, I came to know much more about the people who are forced to flee and that there are refugees in Japan and that there is UNHCR a name slightly difficult for a normal Japanese to pronounce -in Japan, trying to make people's lives much better," she added.

Rika, the ambitious lead character, enters the UN with high hopes of using her job as public information assistant as a stepping stone to improve the world. To her surprise, she falls in love with and marries a UNHCR protection officer, only to part with him after he is reassigned to Sudan. Rika finds fulfillment and gains confidence in herself as she overcomes obstacles and hardships.

The story highlights the opportunities and challenges asylum seekers and refugees face in Japan, as well as the often difficult life of refugees in crowded refugee camps around the world. The dangers facing humanitarian staff working in conflict zones are also dramatically brought home in the series.

On World Refugee Day, June 20, the actors and NHK film crew will join UNHCR and partners in a symposium at United Nations University in Tokyo, site of the real UNHCR office. Under the theme of "No Home, Yes Hope," the actors and directors will talk about how they felt dealing with refugee issues to an audience that is expected to include viewers of "Plastic Sheeting in the Wind."

Japan has been an important supporter of refugees since the major Indochinese influx in the late 1970s and now is UNHCR's third-largest donor. Last year Japan announced that it will become the first Asian country to accept refugees for resettlement under a pilot programme due to start in 2010.

By Yuki Moriya in Tokyo, Japan




UNHCR country pages

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

Beyond the smiles of homecoming lie the harsh realities of return. With more than 5 million Afghans returning home since 2002, Afghanistan's absorption capacity is reaching saturation point.

Landmine awareness training at UNHCR's encashment centres – their first stop after returning from decades in exile – is a sombre reminder of the immense challenges facing this war-torn country. Many returnees and internally displaced Afghans are struggling to rebuild their lives. Some are squatting in tents in the capital, Kabul. Basic needs like shelter, land and safe drinking water are seldom met. Jobs are scarce, and long queues of men looking for work are a common sight in marketplaces.

Despite the obstacles, their spirit is strong. Returning Afghans – young and old, women and men – seem determined to do their bit for nation building, one brick at a time.

Posted on 31 January 2008

The Reality of Return in Afghanistan

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Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.
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