A Participatory Advisory Group in Trinity has been set up to work towards applying for University of Sanctuary status. The group will report to the Engagement Advisory Group, which is chaired by College Registrar, Prof. Paula Murphy, with the aim of shaping Trinity’s educational response to asylum seekers and refugees.
The group will consist of academic staff, non-academic staff and students. Dr. Gillian Wylie, Lecturer in the Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE), and Dr. Fintan Sheerin, Lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, have been leading College initiatives to “create cultures of welcome and inclusion for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants”.
Dr. Wylie and Dr. Sheerin provided a statement to Trinity News. Dr. Wylie is a member of the University of Sanctuary Ireland (UoSI) Steering Committee, and her work “has been vital in creating a link between it and the above initiative and this has become a particular focus of discussion for us in our consideration of how College can really respond to asylum seekers’ and refugees’ educational needs”. Dr. Sheerin has lead health teams to refugee camps across Europe.
“City of Sanctuary is a movement across the UK and Ireland which aims to create cultures of welcome and inclusion for asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Within the wider movement there are ‘streams’, which include Universities of Sanctuary,” they said. “These are universities and colleges which have committed to being places of sanctuary through, for example, encouraging learning about issues connected to migration and refuge, opening up facilities and clubs and offering fee waivers or scholarships to refugee students”.
The launch of the Participatory Advisory Group follows a number of initiatives such as lecture and activist events as well as workshops across College this year. The “Learning to Build New Lives” initiative was lead by Dr. Sheerin and Dr. Wylie, and supported by the Equality Office. The action began with “an intercultural gathering, grounded in the sharing of food, hopes and stories. This was followed by four open meetings, during which realities, barriers, hopes and ideas surrounding education were shared by those who have sought refuge and whose voices are too often unheard”.
The initiative “aimed to create real engagement between refugees, asylum seekers and the College community – and so help to shape Trinity’s response to the current crisis for those seeking refuge,” they said to Trinity News.
“Using the university as a place of public engagement, the project brought together asylum seekers living in and outside of Direct Provision, refugees, university staff and students to discuss how Trinity might become a place in which people seeking asylum and refuge ‘learn to build new lives’,” the statement continued.
Trinity already has an “honorary place of sanctuary” in the Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE). The school has hosted Dublin City of Sanctuary “Sanctuary in Politics” course, which is held over five Saturday’s with the aim of providing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers an “insight into how the Irish political system and media work and also how to develop public speaking and advocacy skills to engage with these systems”. ISE’s current course launched last Saturday, with approximately 70 attending, 40 of which were students and 20 mentors, with a team of volunteers.
University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin City University (DCU), University College Cork (UCC), University of Limerick (UL) and Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) all currently have University of Sanctuary status. Dr. Wylie and Dr. Sheerin hope that through the work of the Participatory Advisory Group, they “will work towards ensuring Trinity is in a position to make an application for this status”.