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News from around the Network - January 2020

Hello everyone, and a very happy new year. 

2019 was a really busy year for many of us. Here you can read some of the headlines from the last few months. Next time we'd love to include your story - just send it along!


We are delighted to announce that Portlaoise Library has now been recognized as Ireland’s very first Library of Sanctuary. They have been doing outstanding work to welcome and include all newcomers and to ensure the wider library community gets a chance to learn about and meet with refugees. The library has made a significant contribution to the great atmosphere of inclusion and welcome that the town enjoys. Well done to Suzanne , Bernie and all involved! Several other libraries across the network are working on following Portlaoise's example.


Our main work recently has been been working in close co-operation with the Education Authority  and Urban Villages to promote the establishment of 'Schools of.  By the end of this academic year, we aim to have 40 schools mainly in Belfast and some in Derry.
We are working closely with Queens University and the University of Ulster to have them designated as 'Universities of Sanctuary’.  We are also working closely with Belfast Metropolitan College who have a very substantial number of refugee and asylum seeker students on ESOL and other courses and they have recently been designated as the first 'College of Sanctuary' in Northern Ireland.
With Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre and Belfast Metropolitan College  we are developing courses on 'Understanding Northern Ireland'  trying to explain the Politics and Culture of NI to newcomers!  
We are currently working with Libraries NI to establish 'Libraries of Sanctuary' and with Grow NI to establish 'Gardens of Sanctuary. We also hope to develop other 'streams' including in the health, faith, youth and sports. 
We continue to promote our Exhibition "A Part of Belfast Now" to encourage a better understanding and appreciation of diversity and different cultures as a positive feature of life in Belfast and to challenge myths and stereotypes, often negative, about refugees and newcomers.
We aim to have Belfast City Council formally declare Belfast to be a 'City of Sanctuary' but we do not want to do so until we are confident that it would be reflective of meaningful progress in terms of a buy-in and a real commitment across various sectors including education, health, housing and other public services, community, sports, culture etc.  Much progress has been made due to great work by many local community and voluntary organisation, NGOs and public bodies over a number of years but we believe that there is still much to do." We are busy planning to bring together these strands in a formal event with the City Council and visitors across the network in late spring 2020.
Report submitted by John O'Neill, Secretary Belfast COS



Galway has been bringing Sanctuary into all levels of Education. Four schools have now publically signed pledges to become Schools of Sanctuary, an initiative driven by the Access Centre at NUIG. Schools of Sanctuary were launched by the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor at Scoil Bhride  in September.

Jacqui Phiri, POSI Board and Galway Community of Sanctuary member, reported:
Overall; it was an amazing experience and having so many people from various walks of life come to support the message of Sanctuary in education was heartwarming. Seeing the work done thus far by all people involved in the Schools of Sanctuary and Sanctuary movement in general was inspiring, and we were delighted and humbled to witness it in action. The Scoil Bhride principal said many have been practicing sanctuary and in many ways the designation is a formality of a way life they have already adopted that reflects sanctuary, and that I believe is what the message of Sanctuary is about.
Later in the autumn Galway was again the scene of a high profile event, this time celebrating the designation of NUIG as a University of Sanctuary. The commitment of the programme to including seekers of international protection and members of the travelling community in the beneficiaries of scholarships has led to deep links of mutual support and understanding being forged. This link, along with Galway's intention to be recognised as a City of Sanctuary were emphasised by the Mayor and other dignitaries. All eyes will be on this vibrant diverse city - now the European Capital of Culture!


The success of Cork City of Sanctuary is a brilliant mix of work being done by the very dedicated steering group and an excellent range of grassroots activities that exist and are growing all the time. University College Cork also works closely with the group and, as a University of Sanctuary, is known for opening opportunities for people seeking sanctuary. This autumn saw the largest ever numbers of sanctuary study scholarships as well as a general lecture programme open to all in Direct Provision.
We have had a variety of events and workshops as part of the  County of Sanctuary programme.
We  have three schools awarded as  Schools of Sanctuary; Ballybay Community Creche, Scoil Eanna Primary School and Largy College, Secondary School, Clones, Co Monaghan.  Largy’s transition year  group developed and app and a game an book which highlighted the journey that refugees and asylum seekers often take to seek sanctuary.
They had an event to launch the app, book and game at Monaghan County Museum. Minister Heather Humphries attended the event and  three people spoke at the event about their experience of living in Monaghan as refugees and asylum seekers.

Report submitted by Brenda Clerkin, Monaghan County of Sanctuary and County Council

UoS Designation:
In recent months, two more universities have joined the network of universities of Sanctuary in Ireland. We are delighted to welcome NUI Galway and Maynooth University on board. Six  universities in the country now have sanctuary status,  as well as Athlone Institute of Technology and Belfast Met. College. Other institutes of Higher Education have also expressed interest in preparing an application to receive the UoS designation.
Global Refugee Forum: 
The UoSI has delivered a pledge to the UN Global Refugee Forum which takes place in Geneva 16-18 December. As part of the pledge, UoSI has declared a commitment to increase global HEI access targets from 3-15% by 2030 (UNHCR). To date, the following number of scholarships has been offered across the UoSI consortium:
Access courses: 86;
UG Programmes: 87;
PG Programmes: 11;
Diplomas: 4;
Online programmes: 20
This totals 208 places across the various programmes. In addition,  a range of UoS-led sanctuary programmes has been introduced, including: intercultural events; Refugee Week; sports activities; refugee inclusive curricula; refugee-focused research; scholars at risk and recognition of prior learning advocacy; outreach activities with the wider community. The UoSI network continues to expand and to commit to offering scholarships on a par with what has been granted to date. For the next academic year 2020-21, the following supports have been pledged, as a minimum, across the consortium: Access: 36; UG: 52; PG: 8; Diplomas: 3: Online 5, totalling 104 scholarships.

Report submitted by Dr Veronica Crosbie, UoSI Chair.
Following a lot of interest in Waterford in Sanctuary and Education, the first School of Sanctuary, Mount Sion CBS is well along the road, having signed the Pledge and building on the range of welcoming activities already in existence. The school has formed a Sanctuary Committee and produced a video clip, and will be holding a series of workshops including refugee speakers. Narrell Byrne, EAL Coordinator, who is leading the initiative, had an opportunity to share the idea at a national CBS gathering in Croke Park on 5th December.
This is one of several schools across the network in Ireland that are trailblazing and inspiring a growing sanctuary movement. All Irish schools remain deeply indebted to the Belfast group and EANI for the wonderful resource which is an invaluable resource across the country.
Gorey has been at the heart of sanctuary activities in County Wexford, following a very successful launch of ‘A Hundred Thousand Welcomes’ which brought together people from all communities in Gorey Library. The county has a Syrian resettlement programme and over a hundred people in emergency Direct Provision centres, and the county has been welcoming and responsive to the newcomers. Wexford Local Development has stepped in to prepare much needed materials for awareness raising, and has hosted a Sanctuary Ambassadors’ Training Course, modelled on Sanctuary in Politics. Irish refugee Council has helped the lack of designated advice by spending a day in one of the centres and training refugees and volunteers.
Two Gorey schools have been working on becoming Schools of Sanctuary, with Loreto School launching the campaign officially at a wonderful assembly, where all 700 pupils as well as staff, governors and parents listened with rapt attention as three residents from Direct Provision shared their stories. Everyone in the school community has now signed a pledge form and the school is buzzing with ideas. The next day, fifteen asylum seekers, mainly children, came to the school for their first taste of Irish traditional music. They went home with tin whistles and a few tunes to learn, and some of the braver children played their tunes at the recent Christmas party. A week later Creagh College, one of the large secondary schools in Gorey, launched their campaign with a delicious food festival where pupils from over 20 nationalities prepared mouth watering dishes  from all over the world. It was especially heartening for children in Direct Provision to be able to try out home cooking, something they have not enjoyed for many months. The two schools are enthusiastic and talking about their sanctuary endeavors. Watch this space!

Dublin may be a big city but one of its prize sanctuary expressions is all about going out into the countryside! Sanctuary in Nature and Heritage is a stream being spearheaded by Paddy Woodworth and Muhammed Achour from the Dublin group. They take groups of asylum seekers and newcomers, mainly from Mosney DP Centre, on trips to explore the heritage and wildlife of County Dublin and beyond. The most recent trip was to Ardgillan Castle, Rogerstown Estuary and Sonairte's National Ecology Centre on 14th December. In August the group went to Castletown House and Gardens in Celbridge, County Kildare. The group helps source funding for the outings through nurturing links with the visiting venues, thus skilfully spreading the sanctuary message.

For more information, to see some inspiring photos and to enquire if your group wants to try something similar, visit their facebook page
Dignity Partnership 
Rosemary Kunene, from the PoSI board, has taken a step to address one of the primary needs of newcomers. Rosey describes her exciting new venture:
Dignity Partnership is a social enterprise initiative that promotes and provides self-employment support services for new communities (people seeking refuge and other migrants). Our mission is to support people in direct provision improve the quality of their life through our programme. We will support with entrepreneur skills development and providing mentoring and support in setting up businesses. Our Vision is independent people with dignity restored and a better quality of life.
Our services include; Entrepreneur Skills Development workshops; Support in setting up business / Social Enterprises and Mentoring; Connecting new communities with Irish business communities, e.g. workshops and networking events to share challenges and success business stories; Building a network of business people, and marketing services/ products.

To find out more, check:;  or .
or drop us an email: or call/text: 089 254 6155

Want to find out more about the City of Sanctuary Movement? Click here to read and sign up to newsletters from CoS UK.
We’d like to remind everyone to be really careful about which photos you share and publish. Copyright laws have tightened up recently and you may feel a photo is free to publish, and then suddenly be fined by the owners. Similarly, we must in this age of happy snapping be careful always to check we have permission before we share any photos, especially anything involving children. May we also remind people about being careful about emails – please don’t share email addresses unless specific permission has been given. Caution should also be exercised about the content of material shared on whatsapp groups, facebook pages etc.
Please contact us if you have any questions – but for now, while many of us are still getting used to the rules – err on the side of caution. The board is seeking professional advice on these matters, which we will make available to the whole network.  

Here at PoSI we are seeing some changes. Tian has left the core team to study for a Masters at DCU. I know you’ll all want to join me in thanking her for her amazing work and wishing her all the best for her studies! As we all know, Tian is very committed to sanctuary, and of course we have not seen the last of her – she is busy supporting the Dublin group, and will remain involved.
Homayoon from Waterford, having worked hard as a volunteer for over a year, will be working nationally as an assistant to Tiffy while continuing to volunteer in Waterford. A new volunteer to our team is Rania from Gorey, Co Wexford who is already using her brilliant computer and website skills to enhance our work.
  • Tiffy Allen -
  • Homayoon Shirzad -
  • Rania Elamin   
  • Tian Yu -   
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to anyone who may be interested in our work.               

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