NUI Galway welcomed a group of Afghan refugees to campus just five months after they fled their home country.
The group of 22 Afghan women were hosted by the University of Sanctuary initiative and received the chance to learn about the University and the opportunities available to them in higher education.
Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell into the hands of the Taliban and the women have been building new lives in Galway and the east of the country.
Professor for Cancer Biology at NUI Galway Afshin Samali was introduced to the Afghan group in November and has supported them in their transition to Ireland and its education system.
“The visit was a very special day for our community,” said Professor Samali, who came to Ireland as a refugee as a teenager in 1985.
“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.”
The visit featured an Afghan-Irish cultural night in the Quadrangle for staff, students and the visitors. including food and music representing Eastern and Western traditions.
President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said diversity is a hugely important part of life at the University.
“Diversity in our University is a source of enrichment for our 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.”
Fine Gael TD for Galway East Ciarán Cannon was also in attendance at the visit having supported some of the refugees to settle in Galway.
Deputy Cannon worked with Government to secure refugee status and PPS numbers for the women.
NUI Galway’s University of Sanctuary Coordinator Aidan Harte explained the impact conflict abroad has on refugees and Ireland’s responsibility to support them.
“An increasing amount 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.
“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,” he concluded.