On Thursday 5th October, about 70 people attended the coordination team event of the UMONS refugee initiative. UMONS invited all the project managers and participants to share a friendly meal at the university restaurant of the Houzeau halls of residence. The meal was full of sweet oriental flavours, with Lebanese mezzes, and chicken shish kebabs on the menu. This was all accompanied by a demonstration of Dabkeh (a Syrian dance), and… plenty of emotions!
The main objective of this initiative is to give refugees the opportunity to continue or start university studies in the Belgian academic system.
To date, the asylum seeker training programme at UMONS has supported nearly 50 refugees and asylum seekers from several countries, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Armenia. UMONS also intends to sensitise the university community to the problem of forced migration.
The process of integrating asylum seekers has two parts:
- First, they take an accelerated French as Foreign Language (FLE) course. The language barrier is the first obstacle to academic and social re-integration. They are then registered as auditing students.
- Second, they have the option to register as regular students at one of the different faculties of UMONS.
Close collaborations between the internal and external partners at UMONS have allowed candidates to receive daily support.
The following have actively contributed to the success of this initiative:
- The Deans and professors of the different faculties with whom the programme managers coordinate the initiative to enable asylum seekers to register as regular students
- Centres for asylum seekers, such as the Red Cross (in Tournai) and Fedasil (the Federal agency for the reception of asylum seekers in Morlanwelz), with whom the programme collaborates daily for all aspects of the organisation and academic life of the asylum seekers
- Promotion sociale de Mons
- Promotion sociale de Jemappes, together with the CLV, who provide FLE courses to asylum seekers
- The CPAS of Mons and members of the CPAS-UMONS department
- Intercultural interpreters and volunteers
- The teachers who welcomed asylum seekers as auditing students in their classes
- Various administrative departments of UMONS (Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Social Services, the International Relations Office, and the Registration Office)
- UMONS Centre for Modern Languages (CLV)
- Student representatives.
Thanks to all these partners, the refugee candidates, three of whom gave speeches during the evening of 5th October, have been able to regain a positive mind-set, motivation to work, an active social life, and, above all, ambition. All these factors have made it possible for all to realise the importance of this programme with regard to the lives of asylum seekers.
Several projects are in the pipeline:
- Student “sponsorship”
- Organisation of events to promote the project
- Awareness campaign on cooperation and refugee issues
- Follow-up of international students and refugees
- Association with Erasmus Student Network Mons, TandeMons and the International Relations Office of UMONS
- Participation in the Campus Plein Sud campaign (in March 2018): activities related to migration focusing on the reception and integration of migrants and refugees and issues such as equitable access to education and training. Making Belgian students aware of the presence of migrants and refugees in Belgium and on the UMONS campus.
- Initiatives strengthening integration, intercultural exchanges, encounters, etc.
For more information, contact Mélanie Recour (firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: +32 (0)65 37 36 15 (coordinators: P. Gillis and H. Safar))
More information on the reception of refugees at UMONS can be found on this page.