I have been following the work of a group of our Essex students who visited Calais with Colchester’s Refugee Action Group with admiration, and I was keen to receive an update from Adrian Chira, the President of Essex Students’ Union on his return from Calais earlier this week. They travelled to Calais to distribute clothing and supplies to try to alleviate the hardship faced by refugees in The Jungle.
I am proud of the way our Students’ Union, our students and our staff, have mobilised to support and fundraise for humanitarian efforts to alleviate the desperate situation so many thousands are facing, and to welcome Syrian refugee families coming to Colchester.
As a University, we have given serious consideration to what practical support we are best able to provide. Our first priority has been to consider our current Syrian students, and the impact the crisis in their homeland has had on their ability to continue to study at Essex. Where necessary we have waived fees to allow them to continue their education – an investment of nearly half a million pounds.
We have reviewed our existing and new scholarships to ensure Syrian and other refugees are eligible to benefit from them, including our new ‘Women of the Future’ scholarships, and we are extending our existing refugee bursary to include postgraduate students. We are also considering other options, particularly how we might support Syrian refugees in Colchester whose studies have been interrupted by them leaving their homeland.
As a research university, we are also undertaking work on refugee care, principally through our Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies/Centre for Trauma, Asylum and Refugees. Work within our School of Law, Human Rights Centre and Department of Government also covers related topics including conflict resolution, international politics and EU law. This is addressing a wide range of issues which can help to better understand and respond to the current crisis.
I am keen that we continue to be a venue for debate about the issues surrounding the current refugee crisis. Recently I addressed our Students’ Union’s Welcome Refugees event, and our popular and challenging THINK Seminar for February focused on the crisis and what to do about it.
We also want to continue to work together with other organisations in Colchester to establish how we can target support to be of most benefit, and continue to support the amazing work of our Students’ Union.
Individual students and members of staff can help by donating money, food, clothing, bedding, or by volunteering. You can support the SU’s campaign, Refugee Action Colchester, or one of the international charities listed below: