The Union of Students Ireland (USI) have been granted €3,900 by Together, Moving Forward in order to campaign to improve the inclusion of refugees in higher education in Ireland.
Together, Moving Forward is a grants programme under the European Students’ Union which specialises in awarding small grants in order to improve relations between refugees and citizens in their host country. USI’s campaign will be nationwide and, through a variety of approaches, will work to make college campuses a more inclusive and welcoming place for refugees.
USI’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs Jack Leahy; Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship, Síona Cahill; and Vice-President for Campaigns, Daniel Waugh made the funding application to Together, Moving Forward. It is Leahy, Cahill and Waugh who will lead the nationwide campaign. In an email statement to The University Times, Leahy said the group were “delighted to receive the funding. We strongly support the need to assist refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into higher education”.
The campaign will take a three-pronged approach. Sabbatical officers will be given training so as to become “anti-hate speech” ambassadors on their campuses. Secondly, the the campaign will hope to highlight the issues facing refugees through promotional campaigns across campuses, as well as social media campaigns more other measures to provide students with the skills to help support the campaign. The campaign will also undertake research so that the third-level sector in general becomes more aware of the issues behind of refugee integration.
Leahy went on to say it is “a practical and appropriate response to the refugee crisis”. Leahy said “its wholly appropriate for this union to promote peaceful and inclusive campus environments”.
As well as beginning a campaign to achieve refugee inclusion in higher education, Cahill will travel to Brussels after the next USI National Council to take part in a European event to further develop the campaign.
Currently, where refugees have been present in Ireland for longer than five years they are entitled to the same access to third-level education as citizens. In 2015, Ireland pledged to take in 4,000 refugees, at which point there were just over 140 refugees between the ages of 13 and 17 years. Just over 300 refugees had come to Ireland by September 2016.
Leahy said “representative organisations which support human rights should be part of the national solution to the refugee crisis. By working for a more inclusive [higher education] sector, that’s what we’re doing”.