7th June 2021
Welcome to our summer newsletter, bringing you the latest news from our friends and partners across the country. Lockdown, school closures and restrictions have been a real challenge for people in Direct Provision, but amidst the problems, there have been some wonderful positive initiatives. We hope this snapshot will be an inspiration to you. June 20th is World Refugee Day, with many groups celebrating Refugee Week events, landmark buildings lit up in blue, and much more. We wish you joy, strength and unity and we applaud your dedication and creativity in making Ireland a more inclusive and welcoming place for all.
As always, we are deeply grateful to our wonderful volunteers working tirelessly across streams and local groups. We are delighted to announce that Rania, who has been volunteering with us since her arrival in Ireland, has got a great job in Dublin and so has less time for Schools and Places of Sanctuary work, but remains involved and committed to the sanctuary movement. Meanwhile we are very happy to welcome Catherine O’Brien, a Trinity College student, to our team, Catherine is helping especially with Social Media – please see below.
Universities of Sanctuary
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland’s oldest and most prestigious university, was recognised as a University of Sanctuary on the 19th of February. The Provost, Professor Patrick Prendergast, spoke of the need for a compassionate response by Irish universities to refugee students, and of the access scholarships for asylum seekers within TCD. It is the seventh Irish university to be recognised as a University of Sanctuary.
The Chair of Places of Sanctuary Ireland, Andy Pollak, emphasised that the ‘vital work’ of Universities of Sanctuary Ireland had been recognised in the July 2020 Programme for Government, which had committed to increasing the number of supports for those in Direct Provision who wished to access third level education.
A highlight of the ceremony was the screening of ‘Flight’, a short film which powerfully depicts the parallels and links between the plight of refugees in the 21st century and those fleeing the Irish famine in the 1840s, which can be watched here on YouTube. The ceremony was watched online by many refugees in Ireland. One attendee who is a current Leaving Certificate student commented:
For me, Trinity being a University of Sanctuary is some of the best news ever! Trinity has always been a university I’d love to go to and has always been a dream for me as an asylum seeker. Now that it’s a University of Sanctuary, I feel my dream of becoming a Trinity student is getting closer to reality.
There are at least 60 Sanctuary Scholarships being offered by Universities of Sanctuary this year, so if you know anyone considering applying, now is the time. Lots of good wishes to all those applying for Sanctuary Scholarships and doing exams!
We believe firmly that when sanctuary values are embedded in education, society will become more understanding, inclusive and welcoming. Schools of Sanctuary have continued to thrive, with over 30 schools registered and many more planning to get started in September. We now have a national steering committee chaired by Sallie Ennis, a teacher in Stepaside Educate Together Secondary School.
A webinar was hosted for second level students and teachers on the 24th of March by Schools of Sanctuary with NUI Galway. Entitled ‘Living as a Refugee in Ireland’, speakers gave an insight into their experiences as refugees in Ireland, from living in direct provision to the barriers they face in the education system. It proved to be a fascinating panel, with truly powerful stories from each of the five speakers.
Our Lady’s College in Galway has been recognised as a School of Sanctuary. Following a virtual monitoring on the 25th of May 2021, Our Lady’s College was judged to be “outstanding” in terms of its commitment and activities for welcoming and including young people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including its promotion of pathways and supports into higher education. Mount Sion CBS in Waterford are continuing to celebrate their achievement with a ceremony hosted by the Mayor of Waterford on Wednesday May the 5th.
We are privileged to be working with a strong team of teachers, students and ambassadors to help grow the Schools of Sanctuary movement. We are delighted to be part of an ever growing network of organisations such as Irish Secondary Students Union, Jesuit Refugee Service, Yellow Flag and Amnesty International, all working towards similar aims, and we believe that together we will see more and more schools committed to embedding welcome and sanctuary for people from all backgrounds.
Schools of Sanctuary have now joined both Facebook and Twitter, and will be using both of these social media platforms to post updates and share relevant information which will be of interest to schools. These will both be new ways to keep in contact with us and we will be sharing posts which will help schools on their journeys to ensure they are safe spaces for refugees and asylum seekers.
We advise all schools, students, and teachers interested in keeping up to date with our activities to follow these accounts. Anyone interested in getting involved in social media should contact Catherine at [email protected] or Homayoon at [email protected]
Here’s the link for Facebook and Twitter Page:
Sanctuary Ambassadors are making a difference by speaking out in public about their experiences of living as refugees in Ireland. Most Sanctuary Ambassadors have graduated in courses in Waterford, Galway, Dublin, Portlaoise and Wexford. During lockdown it was impossible to meet but we held many useful sessions online. Sanctuary Ambassadors have been speaking about their experiences in forums such as Schools of Sanctuary, awareness raising sessions for community and support workers, and elsewhere.
The Dublin group is currently running a Sanctuary in Politics course online, with over 20 attendees from seven counties. Topics being covered include public speaking, politics in Ireland, social media and running campaigns. Reports from the first two sessions have been excellent and anyone wanting to know more can contact Tian who will be delighted to help.
Sanctuary in Faith
The concepts of Sanctuary and Hospitality are prominent in many different religions and expressions of faith. The Faiths Stream seeks to build support for the City of Sanctuary movement and to engage faith communities in helping to make our city a place of welcome for those seeking sanctuary. Local faith leaders and communities are encouraged to become part of the Sanctuary network through a process of learning, embedding and sharing.
The Faiths Stream steering group is happy to provide guidance and encouragement for faith groups ready to embark on the Sanctuary Journey. We particularly encourage faith communities to mark Refugee Week each year in some way.
A Page is also created for Sanctuary In Faith linked to Places of Sanctuary Ireland’s Website and is now live and accessible here.
If your faith group is ready to embark on its Sanctuary journey please do get in contact Kevin Mascarenhas email [email protected] or Abigail Sines email [email protected]
Sanctuary in Nature
Paddy Woodworth and Muhammad Achour, architects and leaders of Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage, a group organising outings for people in Direct Provision to experience some of the wonders in Ireland’s landscape and heritage.
“Throughout the pandemic we have wondered how to keep the Sanctuary in Nature & Heritage project alive, so that we can all gather again when circumstances permit. We had a grant for €400, but what could we do with the grant when we could not invite people to travel with us?
Finally, we came up with the idea of preparing a special gift package, relevant to both nature and heritage information, and sending it to families who had come on excursions with us. We put together a package including a card showing images of some of our previous outings, books including Michael Fewer’s Naturama, Aidan Heron’s Ardgillan Castle Revealed, and a hand lens with LED light for observing flowers and insects, which we have used on our tours.”
The response to date has been very warm, as is evident from the following comments:
We were really grateful for the lovely book. Truly a beautiful book with marvelous illustrations and interesting facts about the wildlife around us. I’m thankful for the magnifying glass too. It is really handy. The activity book was also a wonderful addition, especially since it arrived during lockdown. Thank you for the gifts.
I love them and my daughter was so much in love with them. They are so lovely. Thank you a million.
Grand thanks to Mr Paddy and Mr Mohamad Ashour for their great efforts in helping and teaching Syrian asylum seekers about Ireland’s nature, culture and history through the nice trips and books and gifts.
Thank you very much for this very valuable and special gift. I was delighted when I received this unconventional present. I was very pleased to get to know some very wonderful natural reserves and heritage places in Ireland through Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage. You are doing a wonderful job. I truly appreciate your great efforts. All thanks to both of you.
We have been delighted over recent months to strengthen our links with Sanctuary Runners, a wonderful group that focuses on solidarity, friendship and respect between asylum seekers, refugees and wider society. They use running as a bridge to building those vital community connections. They focus on solidarity, not charity, and there are over 3,000 Sanctuary Runners across Ireland.
Sufian El Gahmi, is a Sanctuary Ambassador in Wexford, and he has built up a strong group of Wexford Sanctuary Runners, a mix of Direct Provision residents and Irish friends from all around the county and beyond. Sufian is working hard to support Sanctuary Runners’ national effort to build a team of at least 1,000 runners, joggers or walkers to come together for this year’s virtual Cork City Marathon on June 6th. So far over 40 from Wexford have committed to participating.To date over 1600 runners in 28 countries have pledged to join the marathon next week, all united to show solidarity, friendship and respect with refugees.
It is intended that at least a quarter of those who take part are currently living in Direct Provision. You don’t have to be a runner to take part – joggers and walkers are more than welcome too. Participants can run the full or half marathon – or even just a relay leg, which is just 8.5km.
It’s not too late to sign up! Below are all the details about how individuals or groups register to take part. Sanctuary Runners will try to get running tops and gear to all those involved. For more information see the information video on their YouTube.
In Northern Ireland, there is no Direct Provision but asylum seekers face risks such as poor housing, isolation and destitution. Covid restrictions disrupted the usual social and support networks for refugees and asylum-seekers and Belfast City of Sanctuary has had to adjust quickly to meet the challenge. A collection among friends and supporters in the first Covid surge provided sufficient funds to allow a team of volunteers to distribute food vouchers to members of various communities including Nigerian, Zimbabwean, Syrian, Somali, Iranian and Sudanaese households.
The Big Lottery agreed to allow them to use resources originally allocated for the summer picnic to be re-allocated to help ease hardship in this period, and to support outdoor exercise activities. A second boost came when the Comic Relief fund provided funding to get computers to households that needed them to allow children to keep up with remote schoolwork, and to provide vital communication for those experiencing loneliness and isolation. There can be no doubt about the scale of the challenges faced in 2020, but no doubt either that Belfast City of Sanctuary has risen to that challenge.
For more Belfast news, visit their Facebook page.
Portlaoise News/Dignity Partnership
Dignity Partnership (DiP) is a social enterprise that promotes integration for refugees, and people seeking international protection through personal development, self-employment, and entrepreneurship programmes. Its founder is Places of Sanctuary Ireland board member and experienced Sanctuary Ambassador, Rosey Kunene. The group has given training, connections and encouragement to many.
DiP is organising an awards day to be held on World Refugee Day on the 20th of June 2021.The purpose of this award is to recognise the value of refugees and their contributions to the local economy, make individual businesses known, and encourage others to take on the challenge of selling their goods and services. It is also intended to encourage members to trade openly and access the supports available and provide a platform for networking. Above all, it acknowledges and promotes businesses run by refugees in Ireland.
Refugee Week Events
Refugee Week takes place from the 14th until the 20th of June. The theme for Refugee Week 2021 is ‘We cannot walk alone’ and there are a number of events planned by Christ Church Cathedral, LGBT Ireland, and Irish Refugee Council and Law Centre Northern Ireland, a mixture of in-person and online.
Life after Dublin? A Legal Seminar
Wednesday 16th June, 14:00-16:00, Online via Zoom
This is a legal seminar hosted by Law Centre Northern Ireland and Irish Refugee Council. Register to attend here on Eventbrite.
Christ Church Cathedral: Homing Pigeons: Birds with Wishes Exhibition
14-20 June, Christ Church Cathedral
Good wishes arrive on the wings of fanciful works of art, created by school children in Aleppo, Syria. Organised in collaboration with Places of ARcture, with support from Ecclesiastical.
Public Opening Hours: Wednesday, 16th – Saturday, 19th: 10.00 – 16.00 (normal cathedral admission applies) Friday, 18th: 18.00 – 20.00, special evening opening, Free of charge!
School and community groups are invited to book into the exhibition free of charge: Monday, 14th or Tuesday, 15th, 10.30 – 16.30. Advance booking essential. Email [email protected].
‘What’s the Story? Lives in Direct Provision’
Thursday, 17 June, 19.30, Online via Zoom
‘What’s the Story?’ is online this year but the goal is the same: to offer a space for the sharing of stories, making space for connection across our community, by listening to the lived experiences of who have been through the direct provision system. Join this event to hear poetry and reflections around the themes of family, home and time. Register here via Eventbrite.
‘We cannot walk alone’ Make your mark!
Friday, 18 June and Saturday, 19 June, 11.00 – 17.00, Christ Church Cathedral
Call in to the cathedral grounds and take part in the creation of a chalk mural (weather permitting)! Visitors are invited to add chalk footprints around our labyrinth plaza to symbolise the message ‘We cannot walk alone’.
Friday, 18 June and Saturday, 19 June, 11.00 – 17.00, Christ Church Cathedral
Come and check out Christ Church Cathedral’s colourful outdoor market for the weekend. Ellie Kisyombe of Our Table will have her fantastic hot sauces for sale. Njabuliso Moyo of Busy Finger Diaries will have be selling her one of a kind handbags and clothing items. And from the workshop of local charity the Mendicity Institution there will be fabulous handcrafted wooden flower boxes and other items, a great way to support Mendicity’s work in the local community.
Monday 21st June, 12:30, Online via Zoom
LGBT Ireland will host a lunchtime webinar to highlight some of the challenges facing LGBT+ refugees. Registration and more details to follow.
Sunday, 20 June, 15.30, Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral marks World Refugee Day during their afternoon service of choral evensong with guest preacher, Pastor Ebenezer Segatu.
We will be continuing to bring out a newsletter like this every few months. Please send us your news, your views and any upcoming events, we will do all we can to include them next time. Wishing you all safety, strength and hope
Tiffy, Homayoon, Rania, Catherine and Andy.
Tiffy Allen – National Coordinator and Schools of Sanctuary
Homayoon Shirzad – Assistant Coordinator and Schools of Sanctuary
Rania Elhaimer – Volunteer Website and Schools of Sanctuary Assistant
Catherine O’Brien – Student Volunteer
Andy Pollak – Acting Chairperson, Places of Sanctuary Ireland