To be a refugee is to not know home in the way many of us have the privilege of doing so.
Caught between an unfamiliar country and desperately missing your homeland, unable to return due to war, extreme poverty, inequality or discrimination, it is shameful that the war-mongering behaviour of a few causes such misery for so many. As the global toll of people displaced reaches over 70 million, 26 million of them refugees and half of that figure under 18, young people particularly bear the brunt of the refugee crisis.
A great injustice that besieges the refugee community is the heightened barrier to education. These barriers come in different forms, from the unfairness of expecting a displaced, often traumatised, individual to be able to afford extortionate international student fees, to cultural differences that block refugees from accessing university life. For reasons unknown, those forced to leave their home countries and seek safety in the UK find their previous educational qualifications null and void.
The refugee crisis is not an abstract concept: it’s worldwide, fierce and devastating
UNESCO aims to address this inequality by ensuring universities can match the weight of qualifications from overseas to their own country’s equivalent. This progressive move will not only benefit the country that an individual is now a citizen of, but most importantly, will give a glimpse of hope to the person who has fled for their lives.
An admirable pursuit is the University of Sanctuary initiative that works alongside British higher educational establishments to assist with the process of welcoming refugees and other displaced individuals. As many refugees cannot access documentation of their previous qualifications and professional achievements, the UoS helps Universities check academic backgrounds even if a person can’t “prove” them with a piece of paper.
As more universities embrace the refugee community, barriers are broken down. As one refugee student said about his experience: “I asked them [Refugee Council] whether I would be able to study here and complete my education. They told me about the costs and I started to lose hope because I couldn’t afford the fees and I couldn’t apply for a loan because I had not been in the country long enough.”
it is shameful that the war-mongering behaviour of a few causes such misery for so many
Thanks to scholarships implemented specifically to support the refugee and asylum-seeking community, more and more Universities are ensuring their student body includes refugees. It is not as widespread as it could be, with only 14 of the UK’s 131 universities recognised by the University of Sanctuary organisation.
The refugee crisis is not an abstract concept: it’s worldwide, fierce and devastating. From those living in abject poverty and attempting to find a safer home for their family to the ever-growing number of climate emergency refugees, no country can deflect its responsibility to welcome displaced peoples. The UK is not an exception. As we lurch to the far-right, seemingly hellbent on hurtling backwards in time to an age of ignorance, we must resist it.
The least British thing we can do is fall down the rabbit-hole into the American President’s pocket, turning our backs to people fleeing war and crossing oceans simply in the hope their children will survive the night. Offering a helping hand to those who need one is a good place to start.