As with the UoS Steering Committee’s shared learning approach to our activities, ensuring that the Places of Sanctuary ethos is embedded across all facets of university life is central to the actions taken therein. A summary of undertakings which highlight the committee’s commitment to ensuring the sustainability of the University of Sanctuary initiative at NUI Galway are as follows.
Behind the Wheel
The NUI Galway University of Sanctuary Steering Committee includes senior members of university management, representatives from each of the university’s colleges, student Societies, the Galway Traveller Movement, and members of the International Protection communities in Galway, as well as representatives from local NGOs, charities, advocacy groups and Governmental agencies
Access to the NUI Galway Student Kitchen 2017
In October 2017, an invitation was extended to members of the local Direct Provision centres in Galway city to use the Student Kitchen facilities at NUI Galway, and there is an opportunity to have most, if not all ingredients provided for members. The kitchen is located in the HUB common room and is equipped with all crockery and cooking equipment such as a pressure cooker and food processor. The kitchen has open access hours where anyone may use the facilities and also may be booked for groups or individuals.
Societies’ Day Presentation 2018
In January 2018, four members of the University of Sanctuary steering committee participated in the university’s Societies’ Day, alongside the Fáilte Refugees Society, to highlight our campaign’s ethos, and to promote student involvement in our activities. The event proved most enjoyable, and we connected with a lot of students on the day. We will continue to represent the Places of Sanctuary movement at Societies’ Day and other student engagement events, both on campus and across Galway city and county.
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Campus Committee (EDICC) Briefing 2019
In February 2019, the voluntary coordinator of the University of Sanctuary steering committee, Aidan Harte, met with senior members of NUI Galway’s EDICC to give a brief outline of the University of Sanctuary campaign, which resulted in some members of the EDICC joining the nascent University of Sanctuary steering committee. This committee is composed of representative members from across the University who are senior decision makers with responsibilities for major units, schools, colleges, and leadership, including significant involvement from the Students Union and Staff Networks. The EDICC reports to both the University Management Team (UMT) and to Údarás na hOllscoile, via a sub-committee of the Údarás, and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Social Inclusion in Public Engagement in STEM event 2019
In February 2019, with EDICC funding, Cell EXPLORERS, in collaboration with the UofS steering committee, the Galway City Partnership, Cúram and the University of Vienna, organised a Social Inclusion in Public Engagement in STEM event, spanning three days. This event revolved around three separate activities: 1) a pair of workshops run by Ms. Johanna Strahlhofer of the Kinderburo, University of Vienna, who presented strategies to better engage with members of the migrant community, 2) a focus group of STEM outreach practitioners, Direct Provision representatives and community group leaders to share strategies to better engage with marginalised communities in Ireland, and 3) a Children’s Mini Science Fair putting into practice the lessons learned over the previous two days on how to communicate science, attended by two youth groups and a large cohort of children and parents from a local Direct Provision Centre.
The ALIVE volunteering programme within the Community Knowledge Initiative on campus offers a wide range of opportunities for students to be involved such as homework clubs, human rights advocacy, and awareness-raising campaigns. Participating students are awarded the NUI Galway President’s ALIVE certificate for their efforts, and the UoS steering committee are currently developing links with Gaisce’s new Wavelength Programme, which is a programme aimed at providing asylum seekers aged between 18-25 volunteering experiences, while reducing the costs associated with attaining the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. We will be rolling this programme out in the academic year 2019/2020.
Collectively, the UoS project is also facilitating student research by encouraging students to engage in research covering asylum and Traveller-specific topics, as well as issues of access to third-level education for those on the periphery of Irish society. Through Service-Learning placements, three students have become involved with our steering committee’s activities across campus, and in the broader Galway community. Four BA Commerce students have also commenced developing a workshop series aimed at employment preparation for asylum seekers, refugees and Irish Travellers who wish to enter the labour market but feel underprepared to do so. The students are currently working closely with representatives from the Galway City Partnership, university academic staff, and NUI Galway’s Careers Development Centre, and each received the NUI Galway President’s ALIVE award for their involvement and dedication to the ethos of the Sanctuary movement. The UoS steering committee will develop similar volunteering opportunities for the academic year 2019/2020.
We have connected with the European Capital of Culture 2020 committee in the city, and will be developing strategies and partnerships county-wide in an effort to follow the lead of Hull City in combining this wonderful event with making Galway City and County a Community of Sanctuary in the same year
NUI Galway’s Students’ Union
NUI Galway Students’ Union have supported the University of Sanctuary initiative from the very beginning. In 2016, a referendum was called where students voted against the inhumane system of Direct Provision. We believe that all people are entitled to accessing Higher Level Education. Students’ Unions across Ireland have a duty to their students and absolutely must play a part in collaborating with and mobilizing institutions to drive these important student-staff initiatives to become places of sanctuary.
NUI Galway Students’ Union brought forward a motion to the annual Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Congress in April 2018 where all unions in Ireland voted unanimously to support the implementation of places of sanctuary initiatives in higher level institutions. The student movement has always been at the forefront and core of social justice and equality campaigns; mobilizing students to go out and vote, educate the student body on various important topics and stand in solidarity with those in need.
A “Students Against Direct Provision’’ task force was set up in January 2019 where students’ unions met in the University of Limerick to discuss ways to inform students and the wider public of the standards people in Direct Provision live in, form a network of people to drive a national campaign and plan a deportation strategy in the case of a deportation order being issued when a student is on a scholarship in an institution of sanctuary.
The Union of Students in Ireland organized a “Direct Provision Think In’’ in February 2019 where students’ unions and other organizations across Ireland came together collectively to build on a national campaign.
On a local level, NUI Galway Students’ Union have ran awareness campaigns through social media platforms, challenging students to live off €21.60 a week, organizing panel discussions, information evenings, a video campaign, taking part in protests, passing and bringing forward motions on local and national levels and recruiting volunteers to be part of the University of Sanctuary initiative. Students’ Unions are representative and advocacy groups. The Union’s core mission is to ‘‘represent its members and promote, defend and vindicate the rights of its members at all levels of society.’’ The University of Sanctuary initiative is particularly of value and importance to us as we represent students who have gone through Direct Provision, who are currently still in the system as a student and those who cannot afford to access Third Level Education. Education is a right and not a privilege, denying someone an education is denying someone a basic right. This initiative is crucial for providing opportunity through scholarships, fostering a sense of community and inclusion on campus and educating the student body and wider community on issues that affect people living in Direct Provision.
The Students’ Union has pledged their continuous support to the initiative and promise to ensure the aims are followed through with. This designation will solidify NUI Galway to become a place of sanctuary, support and inclusivity to refugees, asylum seekers, members of the Irish Travelling community and migrants
Reservation of Event Spaces
The UoS steering committee is actively securing spaces at conferences/guest speaker events for International Protection Applicants and Irish Travellers at NUI Galway. We are currently advocating for this to become standard policy amongst all colleges within the university. Community Education collaboration with the Galway Traveller Movement, and the success of 25 Travellers engaging on the Diploma in Community Development Programme, we will hope to increase this opening of conference and guest speaker events spaces.
EUGEO Conference Collaboration
The UoS steering committee collaborated with the Centre for Irish Studies and Omos Aite at NUI Galway, as well as the Space & Place Research Group at Maynooth to fund overnight accommodation for an International Protection Applicant so that they could share their expertise at the 'Spaces of Refuge' session held at the international EUGEO conference held at NUI Galway in May 2019.
An issue facing many asylum seekers who receive offers of places at third-level universities is the issue of English proficiency, and the IELTS qualification. The preparatory courses associated with the IELTS qualification are expensive, and are available in Galway city at the cost of approx. €1,900 per person. The NUI Galway UoS steering committee is currently working to secure funding for two such asylum seekers in collaboration with Forsa, the Trade Union conglomerate, and One Galway, another collective of both Trade and Student Unions located in Galway city. This partnership has been inspired by the Cork City of Sanctuary group, who collaborate with local trade unions to secure funding for asylum seekers who have been offered a place at UCC.
Schools of Sanctuary
The Schools of Sanctuary programme is underway, with an NUI Galway PME student developing strategies for implementation as part of his PME programme. So far, two schools have confirmed their participation in both the City and County, and we are in discussion with four other schools for the academic year 2019/2020. Owen has developed an NUI Galway-specific toolkit for the implementation of our School of Sanctuary programme, as we are one of the few, if not only, Sanctuary groups working with both Irish Travellers and International Protection Applicants in Ireland.
Please see below for projected NUI Galway Schools of Sanctuary targets:
Phase One - Phase One commenced in semester two (2019) with two post-primary schools. The two participating schools are as follows; Archbishop McHale College, Tuam Co Galway and Our Lady’s College Galway city. The primary objective of this phase is to test the current structure of the Schools of Sanctuary programme. The findings of the test case will be evaluated in June 2019, and changes will be made to the structure of the Programme where necessary.
Phase Two - Phase Two will commence in September 2019 with four post-primary schools. The participating schools are as follows: Archbishop McHale College, Tuam Co Galway, Our Lady’s College Galway City, Galway Community College Galway City (TBC) and St Marys College Galway City (TBC). This phase will implement the updated structure while conducting research using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Final Phase - The conclusion of the pilot will concentrate on the research findings of the School of Sanctuary Programme. The findings and recommendations of the research will be published in a final report, and a core element of the study will be central in a Professional Master of Education thesis.
Finally, the research findings of the pilot will not only verify the solutions but also accelerate the implementation of the programme in both primary & post-primary schools throughout Galway City & County.
Community of Sanctuary
The Community of Sanctuary steering committee is is currently seeking new community organisations, advocacy groups and Governmental membership to join in its committee, in an effort to promote Galway city and county as a Community of Sanctuary to coincide with Galway’s designation as European Capital of Culture in 2020.