Tuesday, December 17, 2019

STAR goes to the Global Refugee Forum

STAR has been invited by UNHCR to the Global Refugee Forum to submit the #15by30 pledge signed by UK universities and organisations stating their commitment to increasing access to Higher Education for people seeking refugee protection from 3% to 15% by 2030.

Maryam Taher, STAR’s Equal Access campaigner & Christopher Smart, STAR’s Access to University Coordinator reflecting on their time so far in Geneva representing STAR at the forum!

What is the Global Refugee Forum?

At a time when the number of people forced to flee their home country is approaching 26 million, it is important for the international community to come together to ease pressures on host communities, enhance refugee self-reliance and find lasting solutions.

As part of the Global Compact for Refugees, a non-binding agreement signed by states to uphold refugee protection, the first ever Global Refugee Forum was established and is taking place this week to discuss how to improve the international response to the new and existing refugee situation.

The Global Refugee Forum is bringing together 2000 people from around the world including leaders, humanitarian workers, organisations and refugees to exchange new ideas, share pledges and contributions that can be translated into concrete actions. It calls for the inclusion of refugees into the decision making process on refugee related topics and for states to include refugees in all levels of national education including Higher Education.

Maryam Taher & Christopher Smart, STAR at the Global Refugee Forum

Why is STAR at the GRF?

Student Action for Refugees and City of Sanctuary have been working on a pledge calling on higher education institutions and refugee education organisations to pledge towards the UNHCR goal of 15% of refugees in higher education by 2030. The pledge was signed by 39 universities and organisations, committing to continue and expand their work on access to higher education for people seeking refugee protection.

Christopher Smart

People who are seeking asylum in the UK are restricted by various laws when accessing university as they are classed as international students and therefore are expected to pay international fees and at the same time, they’re not allowed to work so cannot earn the money to pay for their studies. In order in enhance refugee self-reliance higher education must be made accessible and must be based on merit and not asylum status. People with other status such as Humanitarian Protection, Discretionary Leave to Remain or Limited Leave to Remain face similar barriers.

STAR and NUS’s campaign Equal Access has gone from strength to strength in last decade as there are now 74 UK universities offering scholarship programmes to those seeking protection in various form including tuition waivers, bursaries and student accommodations.

These scholarships are having huge impact on the lives of ordinary people who were forced to flee their home and came to the UK for a chance to start a new life, people like Maryam Taher, Shrouk El-Attar, Pam Saengathit and Mohammad Seddiqian.

Mohammed was supported by STAR to find information on available scholarships and has now completed a Master’s degree at the University of Bath. This is what he had to say “Scholarships have given me access to education…It has not been simple to get to this point, in fact at some points I felt I would never be able to continue my education, but my mother taught me to never give up.I am so pleased to be graduating today – I feel like I am a step closer to achieving my dreams.”

It is an honour for STAR to have been invited to the Global Refugee Forum to share our work and to gain new ideas to work together with communities, organisations and refugees to continue building a society where refugees are welcomed and supported to thrive as equal members of the community.

Posted by STAR team on 17/12/2019 at 11:47 AM