A group of 22 female Afghan refugees have been welcomed to NUI Galway to learn about the opportunities for higher education at the University.
The women fled their homeland less than five months ago following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and have begun to make new lives in Galway and in the east of the country.
The group were hosted by NUI Galway’s University of Sanctuary initiative and were given the chance to learn about the University, the campus, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes on offer, entrance pathways and scholarships.
An Afghan and Irish cultural evening also took place in the Quadrangle with food and music bridging East and West for students, staff and visitors.
Welcoming the refugees to campus, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, president of NUI Galway, said that diversity in the university is a source of enrichment for students and staff alike.
“As an institution we not only teach, but we also learn from the diversity of our community.
“Two of the core values at NUI Galway are Openness and Respect – these are realised through our University of Sanctuary initiative and we are proud to play a role in supporting the continuation of education for refugees,” he said.
Galway East Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon also joined the visit, after supporting some of the group to settle in Galway and working with Government to ensure the women secured refugee status and PPS numbers.
Aidan Harte, NUI Galway’s University of Sanctuary Coordinator, said that an increasing number of conflicts around the world are causing a staggering rise in displaced communities.
“This affects not only the countries which neighbour the conflict zones but it affects us here in Ireland as well,” he said.
“Ireland has an international obligation to offer protection to those fleeing conflict, and NUI Galway, as a designated University of Sanctuary, will offer a welcoming environment as a beacon of hope for those seeking sanctuary.”
Professor Afshin Samali, Professor for Cancer Biology at NUI Galway, came to Ireland as a refugee in his late teens in 1985.
He was introduced to the Afghan group by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, last November and has since then supported and mentored them to navigate the education system in Ireland.
“The visit was a very special day for our community. It provided us with the opportunity to identify ways to help these young people reach their full potential.
“It also gave the group an insight into University life, and gave them something to aspire to,” said Prof Samali said: