University of Sanctuary

The National University of Ireland, Galway has undertaken a series of strategies to develop, nurture, and sustain a welcoming environment on campus, particularly for those in Direct Provision and members of the Traveller community. These strategies encompass an on-going institution-wide response to the unprecedented global refugee crisis and low levels of participation in higher education among the Traveller community, and to provide access to higher education opportunities at NUI Galway.

Following a national meeting in 2016 of higher education students from across the sector in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), the NUI Galway cohort of students who attended that meeting went on to initiate the University of Sanctuary movement at NUI Galway. The broad purpose of the national meeting was to discuss the collective actions higher education students could take in response to the global refugee crisis, its impact upon the growing number of International Protection Applicants (IPA’s) across Ireland, and how best the students could become successful agents of change by promoting inclusion and integration within their respective communities. The six NUI Galway students in attendance came from a variety of academic disciplines including Law, Human Rights, Advocacy and Activism and, following that meeting, those same students met at NUI Galway to form a new local student society to look at barriers facing new migrants to Ireland. The NUI Galway Fáilte Refugees Society was born, and became a local platform for the dissemination of information on issues related to Galway’s International Protection community. The Fáilte Refugees Society was officially recognised by the University Societies Coordinating Group (USCG) in January 2017, and has received annual funding to facilitate their activities.

In 2017, student members of the Fáilte Refugees Society became aware of the City and University of Sanctuary movement in Ireland and the need to create a university-wide movement to challenge educational inequities that existed nationally and in the West of Ireland in particular. An initial meeting was held with the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI), NUI Galway’s centre for civic and community engagement, and with the CKI’s full support, the students went on to form a university-wide University of Sanctuary’ Steering Committee.

Currently, the University of Sanctuary Steering Committee membership comprises sixty representatives from various organisations and offices, including the Vice President for Equality and Diversity; the College of Science; the College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences; the College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies; the College of Business, Public Policy, & Law; the Irish Centre for Human Rights; the Centre for Adult Learning & Professional Development; the College of Engineering & Informatics; the Community Knowledge Initiative; the Access Programmes Office; the Students' Union; the Fáilte Refugees Society; Minceirs Whiden (Travellers Talking) Society; various NUI Galway student services offices; the Great Western and the Eglinton Direct Provision centres residents’ committees, the Galway City Partnership; the Galway One World Centre; the Galway Integration Consortium; the Galway Traveller Movement; the Galway Anti-Racism Network; and AMACH LGBT+ Galway.
Within this document, the terms “International Protection Applicant” and “asylum seeker” are used interchangeably, as both terms are recognised as referring to those seeking International Protection/asylum in the Republic of Ireland.
JJ Fenez, Aidan Harte, Chiun Min Seah, Suzanne Raap, Andrea Stigler, Tom Wilkinson - all then students in the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway