RIGA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- A public campaign calling for empathy with refugees has upset officials from Latvia's Defense Ministry as they find some of its elements insulting to Latvian soldiers and home guards, local media has reported.
The Defense Ministry has sent the Foreign Ministry a letter, asking the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), which launched the campaign, to remove the offensive elements from the campaign titled "We would do the same".
The Defense Ministry's state secretary Janis Garisons argued that the public awareness campaign was misguided, because rather than highlighting the refugees' humanitarian plight, it claimed both implicitly and explicitly that Latvians themselves would rather flee than fight for their country, which in the ministry's view is insulting to the Latvia's professional armed forces and especially home guards, the volunteers who devote their spare time to military training so they can be prepared to defend their country if necessary.
"It is the will of Latvia's people to defend their country that will keep us from ending up in the situation where people have to flee from their country," said Garisons.
Zoran Stevanovic, a senior spokesman for the UNHCR's Regional Representation for Northern Europe, told LETA news agency that the UNHCR has noticed the Latvian Defense Ministry expressing its concerns about the campaign on Twitter but declined to comment on the tweet as it was not an official statement.
Stevanovics explained that the public awareness campaign was intended to show that the refugees fleeing war need protection.
"They are people just like us. They are fleeing conflict, they run to save their lives," the UNHCR representative said.
The UNHCR campaign, which will continue in the Baltic states from August to December, was launched in Latvia last week to promote empathy and greater openness towards the asylum seekers in Latvia's society. The campaign's videos and posters feature real asylum seekers currently living in Latvia. Each of them explains in a single sentence why they have had to flee their country. Alongside with them, there are pictures of residents of Latvia who admit that they too would flee in a similar situation.
Latvia has already admitted several dozen asylum seekers under an European Union-wide relocation scheme and is expected to take in more than 500 people over the next two years.