By Martha Brennan
More than 14,000 people have backed a campaign launched by Dublin City University’s Students’ Union after a second-year student in the university received a deportation order.
Shepherd Machaya, 32, has lived in Ireland for nine years and was offered a place in DCU last year as part of the University of Sanctuary scholarship program.
Earlier this month, Machaya – who has been living in a direct provision centre since he arrived in Dublin – was issued a deportation order to return to his native Zimbabwe by October 21 after his application for asylum failed.
The Students’ Union created a petition following the news to try to push the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, to revoke the deportation order. Over 14,000 people have signed the petition so far.
The union also staged a demonstration outside the Department of Justice and Equality last Friday. The ‘Save our Shepherd’ campaign has since reached national headlines.
“Should he be deported, he will be faced with the threat of torture from local ‘political’ groups, the very people who drove him out of the country nine years ago. He will not be safe,” the petition reads.
Machaya explained the political situation that led him to flee Zimbabwe in a video posted on the DCUSU Facebook page.
“Ireland to me has become my second home. This is the only place I know other than Zimbabwe,” he said. “My life is still in danger if I go back.” The president of DCU’s Students’ Union, Vito Moloney Burke, said that Machaya proved he was a “model citizen” through his commitment to study and his willingness to contribute to society.
“We urge Minister Flanagan to prevent him from being forcibly returned to a place where he was tortured, and his best friend was murdered,” Burke stated.
Dublin City University’s President Prof Brian MacCraith has also joined in the calls to the Minister.
In a press statement, MacCraith said he was calling on Flanagan “to review Shepherd’s case with a view to allowing him to remain in Ireland in order that he may complete his course of studies at DCU.”
The Union of Students in Ireland has backed the campaign with its president, Síona Cahill, stating; “Pulling any student from their studies is unjust, pulling a man from a country where he calls home only to be sent back to where he courageously left due to life threatening circumstances is barbaric and downright immoral.”
“The national student movement stands behind Shepherd and will be actively campaigning on his behalf alongside DCU Students’ Union to keep him in Ireland.”
“Shepherd Machaya has been a positive influence in Irish society since his arrival, entering Higher Education through the University of Sanctuary scheme for refugees in order to better his quality of life. He must be allowed to stay on this island,” she said.
Student Unions across the country have officially backed the campaign, including the unions in NUI Maynooth, IT Carlow and Waterford IT.
The campaign continues online with DCUSU’s Facebook page posting videos of various students pleading to save Machaya.
“Shepherd is a vital part of DCU, it would of great loss and heartbreak to our whole community if he were to be deported. He deserves to complete his studies in DCU and stay in Ireland where he has made his home,” the Union wrote online this week.
Anyone who wishes to sign the petition can find the link here: https://www.change.org/p/minister-charlie-flanagan-save-our-shepherd