DMU takes the world lead on refugee support
De Montfort University is the global higher education leader for an important United Nations initiative to mobilise support to reduce the impact of forced migration.
#JoinTogether will see DMU lead in engaging the higher education sector worldwide to be part of the campaign – and have been joined by a growing network of universities from across the globe.
In January 2018, hundreds of students visited the UN headquarters, in New York, as DMU formally began this work, inviting international universities to a summit held in one of the UN’s famous debating chambers.
The aim is to create a global network of universities committed to finding ways to successfully integrate refugees into communities, whilst spreading messages of tolerance and understanding.
Students and staff from the partner universities were joined by senior representatives from the UN as well as the Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN. The universities also signed a UN Together Action Charter to signal their intent to be part of the campaign.
This was followed up, in June, by more than 250 DMU students going back to the UN as part of the mass #DMUglobal trip to New York.
This conference, which was led by DMU, focused on championing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), with a specific emphasis on SDG 16 to promote peace, justice and strong institutions.
Speakers included DMU’s Vice-Chancellor, representatives from partner universities and United Nations representatives including Maher Nasser, Daniël Prins and Antje Kristin Watermann.
The conference reviewed the progress made by universities over the last six months and debated the current challenges for safety and dignity faced by refugees in local communities.
Work on the #JoinTogether campaign is growing all the time with a series of strategic trips to Cyprus, in October 2018, and New York, in January 2019 to highlight the refugee support work.
The New York trip will see DMU host its third #JoinTogether conference to bring together partner universities and debate future action plans.
Programme to show refugees they do belong
#DMUlocal has been offering practical and emotional support for refugees and asylum seekers since its first project, English lessons, back in 2012.
Student volunteers now organise regular community events, arts and sports, alongside giving that much-needed practical support.
The university is part of a network of groups in Leicester offering help for refugees and asylum seekers in one of Britain’s most diverse cities.
Charity After18 runs free study support sessions for unaccompanied young asylum seekers and refugees at the city’s St Martin’s Centre, with the help of #DMUlocal volunteers.
There is also a sports programme in operation and, along with DMU Sport, swimming, climbing and football are available for refugees at the impressive £8million Queen Elizabeth II Sports Centre.
Through its work with the Centre for At-Risk Academics (CARA), #DMUlocal has also been able to help bring three Syrian scholars to the university and hopes to help more in the future.
CARA offers sanctuary to academics and scientists fleeing persecution, violence and conflict and DMU has funded scholarships for those scholars.
One of them is Yasmine Alyassin, herself a student volunteer, who said: “I want to cry right now because Syrians have a lot to do, especially for their children. They did not have that in their own country.”
There was also a celebration lunch for the city’s Syrian refugees, organised with the Khidmah Organisation, to gauge what support those recently arrived from the war zone needed to help settle in Leicester.
All this work is showcased during a series of events on campus organised by #DMUlocal for International Refugee Week, in June, for refugees, migrants and the general public.