Athlone IT, a midland college with global reputation and international students from over 60 countries, including Mid East and East Asia, has became the first College of Sanctuary in Ireland.
Places of Sanctuary Ireland visited Athlone IT on Monday 12th June. Staff members from AIT, members of local refugee and asylum seeker support group New Horizon presented in a meeting how they have reached out to asylum seekers in local Direct Provision Centre and welcomed them into AIT, including access to recreational facilities, foodcloud for DP residents, Access course and English class participation for residents, legal and other support programmes and many more.
AIT has recognised that it is the primary higher education institute in the midlands, and feels the need to furthering its mandate to serve the educational needs of the region, and promote socio-economic engagement in the region. In cooperation with both New Horizon and Westmeath Community Development, AIT has been offering a wide range of support to the residents of the local Lissywoollen Direct Provision centre, includingaccess to recreational facilities, foodcloud for DP residents, English class participation for residents, legal and career advices, and many more.
The Institute’s Access Office established a Committee for the Integration of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in September, 2016, chaired (and championed) by Ms. Theresa Ryan, Access Officer. They wish to reach out to not only the Direct Provision Centres in the region, but also refugees coming to in the region including who are in Ballaghaderreen and Mulligar under EU Relocation programme. Some Lissywollen residents have taken part in Access courses.
In order to provide support to as many refugees and asylum seekers who wish to access to third level education with limited resource, a creative solution was developed by the Access Office staff and New Horizon volunteers. Over 40 residents have joined the on line learning group. 25 have attended workshops where they explored the free on line resources available through Massive Open On- Line Courses (MOOC’s), free online accredited modules e. This cost natural solution will:
- facilitate enrolment of asylum seekers and refugees
- enhance the quality of lives and prospects of asylum seekers and refugees
- enrich the AIT community by including asylum seekers and refugees
PoSI is deeply impressed by the staff members' commitment to welcome and include refugees and asylum seekers, and delighted to recognise AIT as the first College of Sanctuary in Ireland