PUBLIC SECT0R: UN refugee body steps up lobbying efforts in the UK

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has boosted UK PR and lobbying efforts.

The move has come to better handle media and government relations for what newly appointed head of press and PA Simon Taylor calls 'one of the current political hot potatoes'.

An integrated press and public affairs department has been created with consultant Taylor recruited as its first head. He has been hired on a full-time six-month contract.

The key task of the four-strong team is to make UK politicians and the public aware of refugee issues across the world and achieve better understanding of refugees who come to the UK.

Taylor stressed it was not the UN's role to prescribe policy but to work with government to ensure that it serves the best interests of refugees.

Referring to negative images of asylum seekers in certain areas of the media, he said: 'The aim is to create better understanding across all the media. I believe that right across the country people are basically sympathetic to the cause of refugees who flee persecution.

'Issues surrounding refugees and economic migrants have become clouded,' he said, adding that economic migrants have an important role in UK society.

Taylor reports to Anne Dawson-Shepherd, the UNHCR UK representative who has overseen the creation of his role.

Media relations was previously overseen by head of press Clare Doole, who has since left the organisation.

Last week a MORI poll on behalf of Amnesty International in the UK found that 85 per cent of people believe that the media portrays asylum seekers in a negative way.

The poll found many people believe that as many as 29 per cent of the world's refugees are in the UK. The figure is, in fact, less than two per cent.

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