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The University of Leicester has launched an initiative to be recognised as a University of Sanctuary, committed to welcoming and supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

An event in the Attenborough Arts Centre of the University saw nearly 100 people, including refugees and those who support them, gather to launch the project.

Leicester City of Sanctuary is a charity which aims to hold true to the multicultural and multi-ethnic ethos of the city itself, welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and integrating them into our city and community.

University of Sanctuary. Malka Al-Haddad. The University of Leicester
Malka Al-Haddad. Photo Credit: University of Leicester

Phil Horspool, Director of the English Language Teaching Unit at the University of Leicester, said: “The University of Leicester is committed to becoming a University of Sanctuary.  At the launch event, we heard poetry readings and music from those seeking sanctuary as well as from campaigners.

“Our aim is to involve colleagues from across the University to come together to find ways that we can practically involve students and staff in supporting refugees and asylum speakers as well as actively involving refugees and asylum seekers in University life .”

A University of Sanctuary is an institution that ‘Offers good practice in welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into the university community and fostering a culture of welcome and inclusion for all.’ Practically it means welcoming asylum seekers and refugees onto University courses, whether English Language or otherwise, and providing incentives and routes for them to get involved.

Colleen Molloy, National Development Officer for City of Sanctuary, addressed the gathering.  She said: “Being a University of Sanctuary is more than a case of being welcoming – it is about embedding in every layer of the University a deep understanding of the need of refugees in order to ensure that lives and talents are not wasted and to harness the fantastic contribution that refugees and asylum seekers can make to our society.”

Author and poet Michaela Morgan addressed the event and read her poem called Malala from her bookReaching the Stars. There were also performances from Lydia Faith Music and a performance of Journeys in Translation reciting poetry in different languages.

Among the refugees who recited poetry was Malka Al-Haddad, who said: “This event for me is a great day and we are celebrating University of Sanctuary with this wonderful event. Asylum seekers and refugees face many challenges, including learning English.

“I cannot believe I got this chance from the University of Leicester and I am so grateful to all the staff from the University and City of Sanctuary to make this happen.  How can we release our skills and talents if our English is not strong enough?  That is why learning language skills is so important.”

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