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DkIT WELCOME College of Sanctuary group host the Irish Refugee Council

17 March 2019

On 27th February, the DkIT WELCOME College of Sanctuary group hosted Charlotte Byrne, Education Officer with the Irish Refugee Council (IRC).  During a well-attended presentation in the Whitaker Theatre, Charlotte described the work of the IRC and highlighted some of the crucial ways that the IRC aid those seeking asylum in Ireland.

As well as running a drop-in centre, the IRC provide advice and information, as well as offering more specific aid in accessing education.

Charlotte began by posing a general question to the group - "What do you think about when you hear the word ‘refugee’?"

Answer – "woman, daughter, mum, sister, granny etc."

In other words, when we look behind the label ‘refugee’, we see a human being with interests, needs and ideas. Quoting from the Irish Refugee Convention 1951, she described the ways that fear of persecution (as well as war) can cause people to become refugees. With over 6,000 people living in Direct Provision in Ireland, Charlotte discussed how the DP system is over-crowded and the difficulties this can cause those seeking asylum in Ireland.

She stated that of the 1/2 million refugees who came to the EU in 2017, Ireland has granted asylum to less than 1%. Regarding education, Charlotte stated that while 50 asylum seekers sit their Leaving Certificate each year, this figure is predicted to rise to around 150 per year in the next few years. While those under 18 are entitled to primary and secondary education and some English language and IT training, the greatest barriers to the access to higher education for these and older asylum seekers in the 25+ bracket is financial. The IRC works with these asylum seekers to enable them to access the government funding which is available for further studies (with some restrictions), as well as providing information on current scholarship schemes which exist in some universities and institutes of technology.

To highlight the issue of access, a current student in DkIT, Archie Sita, spoke of his experiences in seeking asylum and accessing higher education in Ireland. He described the ways that Charlotte and IRC helped him to find out about DkIT and get financial aid to being his studies there. He also described some of the challenges (financial and otherwise) which he still deals with on a daily basis in achieving his full potential in third level.

Charlotte concluded by highlighting some of the very positive actions which the IRC facilitate such as funding raising, aid delivery and cultural celebrations.

In the Question and Answer session which followed, Dr. Bernadette Brereton of the Sanctuary group gave a brief statement of the College of Sanctuary mission which is to welcome refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants into our college community and to foster a culture of welcome and inclusion for all those seeking sanctuary. The Sanctuary group work to raise awareness and build relationships and to diminish the barriers (including stigma) which exist for asylum seekers wishing to attend DkIT. The wide-ranging discussion which followed included the viewpoints of a number of asylum seekers in the audience, as well as students, lecturers and other staff members.

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