The University is supporting Refugee and Asylum Seeking Academics and Students as its charitable cause for 2016
Surely one of the most powerful images any of us have seen this year has been the sight of thousands of refugees making the long walk from countries where they fear for their lives to what they hope will be a new life for them and their families.
The world is experiencing the largest movement of people since the Second World War with millions of people fleeing wars in Syria and Iraq, continuing conflicts and instability in Afghanistan, in countries across Africa and Eastern Europe. Millions of people have fled their country whilst others are internally displaced. What unites them all is the loss of much or all of what they held dear: family, friends, community, homes, personal possessions, careers and livelihoods. Many have walked miles to get away from war or to escape persecution because of their faith, their political views, race, social status, gender or profession, often with only what they could carry.
In the mass of people making journeys across forests and oceans, it is hard to pick out individual stories or to seriously imagine ourselves in the same situation. Yet in our University we have a particular reason to hold faith with those who make such a perilous journey; some of our own community had to do just the same.
Think of our Nobel Laureate Hans Krebs who fled fascism and later spent “nineteen happy years” in our University. Think of our former Students’ Union President Abdi-Aziz Suleiman who left Somalia with his mother when he was three and found refuge in our own city of Sheffield, growing up in Broomhall.
The University of Sheffield is already offering fully funded undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships for refugees, including those seeking asylum in the UK. Our fundraising in 2016 will further support these scholarships - potentially increasing the number of refugee students we can support.
You could also think of our Syrian Academic Fellow, Dr Moaed Almeselmani. Dr Almeselmani was previously a lecturer at Damascus University and a Senior Researcher at the General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research in Syria. After being threatened in his home by regime forces he fled to Turkey and then to Jordan with his family. Their home was destroyed by missiles.
Dr Almeselmani was awarded a fellowship by the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund to allow him to resume his academic work in a safe country. The fellowship required matched funding by the host institution which the Faculty of Science and our Alumni Fund provided. Dr Almeselmani undertakes research on drought tolerant wheat. His work fits perfectly with our plant research which will benefit communities around the world.
We also have strong links with a number of programmes to support academics, including the Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund and the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), a charity which helps academics in immediate danger, those forced into exile. Through these partnerships, the University of Sheffield can host academics who are in danger or exile, giving them a place of safety and the financial and practical help to continue their careers until such as time as they can return home.
Our University is a University of Sanctuary and this has been our tradition since this institution was founded. In 2004, Sheffield was the first UK city to welcome refugees under the United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ Gateway resettlement programme when a group of Liberian refugees were settled in the city. In 2007, Sheffield became the first UK City of Sanctuary and since then, the people of Sheffield have continued to demonstrate their commitment to making refugees welcome.
To find out more about how we're supporting refugees and asylum seekers please visit our Refugees Welcome web pages.