DCU Refugee Week kicks off

Jamie Mc Carron

A film about children living in direct provision titled ‘Direct Division’ was screened today in the U Building as part of DCU’s Refugee Week.

The film which was produced in 2019, seeks to give a voice to children who are rarely heard, and will mark the second day of DCU’s campaign to promote social inclusion throughout the University.

Monday saw the launch of an exhibition of artwork by Syrian children on St Patrick’s campus and an interdenominational gathering for peace in Ukraine was held at noon today.

A webinar on the Community Sponsorship Programme will be held at 7pm this evening to support individuals and families in need of sanctuary.

The film was produced by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office and highlights the stress and discrimination children in direct provision centres face.

One child featured asked “Why are they doing this to us? We aren’t animals.”

Christine O’Mahony, incoming Student Union Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, was in attendance at the screening.

She told the College View that she supports the warm welcome that Ukrainian refugees have received since Russia’s invasion of the country, but believes that this in stark contrast to how Ireland treats asylum seekers from non-white countries.

“I want every refugee to be treated equally but unfortunately our government and a lot of Irish people treat them differently because of the colour of their skin and a lot of the media in particular have been saying ‘these are blonde haired blue eyed people just like us,” she said.

“We only allowed 200 people from Afghanistan into the country but then the Taoiseach goes on the radio and talks about how we’re so welcoming and that we let everyone in that was fleeing Ukraine.

I’m so thankful that they are coming here for their safety but I wish we treated all people with this kindness.”

O’Mahony called for an end to direct provision, which she referred to as an open-air prison, and stressed the importance of Refugee Week at DCU.

DCUSU relaunched its ‘Wish for Mehwish’ campaign in support of Mehwish Saqib, a recent graduate in Early Childhood Education who once again faces deportation.

Saqib, her husband and three children have lived in Ireland for the past six years in direct provision and she was served deportation orders in 2019, when the ‘Wish for Mehwish’ campaign was originally started.

She began her studies in DCU in 2017 as part of the university’s first cohort of University of Sanctuary students.

The scholarships are available for application to asylum seekers and cover all tuition fees as well some other expense and provide an annual stipend of €1,500.

O’Mahony believes that Refugee Week is highly significant at DCU because of the awareness it raises for students such as Mehwish Saqib.

“There are students here on the Sanctuary programme who are being faced with deportation orders. So even though they did their degree here they are being sent back to other countries. It mobilises students to get involved, and to try to put public pressure on politicians to revoke the deportation order,” she said.

Refugee Week will continue tomorrow with the launch of DCU’s University of Sanctuary scholarships for the 2022/23 academic year, as well as an intercultural potluck lunch in the Interfaith centre.

Students are encouraged to bring along a dish from their home country or their favourite food and wear St. Patrick’s Day-style clothing.

Jamie Mc Carron

Image Credit: Jamie Mc Carron