Universities are “ideally placed” to raise awareness of the challenges facing refugees and to provide advice on their legal and educational rights, according to an academic who has organised open days for those who are seeking or have sought asylum in the UK.
Valsamis Mitsilegas, head of the department of law at Queen Mary University of London, said that he would “advocate greater transparency and information for these communities, in simple and accessible terms, about what their rights are”.
“Universities are ideally placed to raise awareness of this issue and provide well-informed and accurate advice,” he added.
The law department, which runs a programme on immigration law, held free open days for refugees and asylum seekers on 15 and 16 February to provide information about access to legal aid and education, recognition of qualifications and career advice.
The free sessions form part of the institution’s Refugees Welcome programme this week, which includes a public lecture by François Crépeau, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, on 17 February and a public screening of Bruce Goodison’s refugee film Leave to Remain, followed by a question and answer session with the director and actor Naoufal Ousellam, on 18 February.
Professor Mitsilegas said that about 40 refugees attended the open day on 15 February while the lecture and film screening are already “fully booked”.
“One of the key aspects of our identity as a law school and a university is to support local communities and social justice. We feel strongly that refugee issues need to take centre stage,” he said.
“Higher education institutions are well placed to take a leading role, especially with regard to access to education and recognition of professional qualifications and university diplomas, and provide more avenues for refugees.”