Students and academics play a key role in promoting the inclusion of migrants and refugees into communities
By Saionara König-Reis – On January 9th the UN Together Campaign in partnership with De Montfort University (DMU) and others held an event at the United Nation Headquarters in New York to promote the role of University students as drivers for positive change and active supporters of the integration of refugee and migrants into communities. During the full day event, distinguished experts interacted with a broad audience of more than 400 students and academics from 10 universities, and members of governmental bodies and international organizations, including Dianova International. Dominic Shellard, Vice-chancellor at De Montfort University, opened the day encouraging the audience to put their dreams and aspirations into action and to learn “Together” how to achieve a better tomorrow for all.
The UN Together Campaign is an initiative launched during the UN General Assembly in September 2016 to unite, empower and amplify the efforts from the different sectors of society in promoting respect, safety and dignity for all migrants and refugees.
In this event, Maher Nasser, Director of Outreach at the Together Campaign and a refugee himself, reminded us that the number one dream of every refugee is to go home; a dream that too many people have been waiting for decades and that will only become real when we are able to properly address poverty, conflict, and multi-sectorial inequalities. For that, we need to coordinate efforts in different fronts, for example, by utilizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework as a guideline to achieve peace, gender equality and safe migration.
Global Compact for Migrants and Refugees
This year the global leaders will approve a Global Compact for migrants and refugees (currently under negotiations), a document which may contain guidelines and actions to enable safe and orderly migratory flows. The expectation from civil society, from migrants and from the more than 65 million persons currently living as refugees is that the international human rights framework will be put in the center of this coordinated effort (See Ten Acts for the Global Compact: the civil society vision for a transformative agenda for human mobility, migration and development). This is going to be equally as challenging as needed in our ongoing context of political tension around these issues; one where we see populist discourses (online and offline) often provoking misjudged and misinformed reactions from members of societies, including widespread acts of xenophobia and institutionalized socio-economic exclusion of migrants and refugees.
Addressing these issues in Jan 9th event, Matthew Rycraft, in his last day as Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN, encouraged students to be activists and to link their studies with subjects related to policy-making for refugees and migrants at the national, regional and international levels, with the aim to influence the public debate and affect positive change. In the same direction, Grainne O’Hara, representing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Keiran Gorman-Best, from the International Organization for Migration, stressed the key role of academia in using social media to reach out to the public and in producing data that can break myths and address the public concerns and misinformation regarding the contributions of migrants and refugees.
In fact, University students and academics from institutions such as DMU (England), Guilfort Collegue (USA), Humboldt University (Germany), University of Science and Technology (China) and others presented the valuable actions they are already taking to protect and promote the rights and safety of migrants and refugees in their communities.
In resistance to the mainstream narrative against migrants and refugees, Universities worldwide are becoming a growing hub of support for theses populations. Their professionalism, activism, energy and creativity are invaluable tools for our collective actions to increase solidarity, build bridges, and provide solutions that will lead to safer pathways for the people voluntarily or involuntarily on the move.