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On 26 February 2018, Prof.dr.Caroline Pauwels, rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), signed a commitment letter making VUB a member of the UNHCR’s coalition #WithRefugees. The United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is leading an international action to protect people forced to flee their home due to conflict and persecution. It believes now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands with refugees and that concrete solutions need to be found to the global refugee crisis. To demonstrate this solidarity and encourage governments into action, UNHCR launched the #WithRefugees campaign and petition.
By joining this coalition, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is the first Belgian university to do so, and it joins a wide array of notable names from the business world, NGOs, international organisations and other renowned academic institutions.
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The reason VUB joined is obvious: “The refugee cause and the work this coalition stands for is a complete representation of the VUB’s core values and principles”, Professor Pauwels explains. “Defending the rights of refugees and those who have been displaced due to war and conflict in their home countries, is something we strongly believe in. Last year, in November 2017, we awarded an Honorary Doctorate to Dr Emma Bonino and the people of the island of Lampedusa for this very reason: their unflinching work and commitment to help the refugee cause.”
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has a welcome student refugee programme and this year set up a specific track – called InCAMPUS - for some refugees who need more help in terms of language, study guidance and psychological support. In addition, the VUB is part of the global Scholars at Risk network, an organisation which protects scholars and academics whose lives, liberty and well-being have been threatened. They do this by providing temporary research and teaching positions at institutions, like VUB, who are part of the network, and also provide advice and referral services.
“We are an actively engaged university when it comes to human rights, academic freedom and helping those who need our support. We instil these values into our students, to help them become world citizens who make the societal commitment that is needed these days, especially when it comes to refugees and those who have been displaced”, Professor Pauwels adds.
The assistance the UNHCR provides is life-saving and comes in the form of shelter, food, water, protecting fundamental human rights, and developing solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home.
By joining this coalition, VUB shows its public solidarity with refugees and their plight.
More information can be found on:
- VUB student refugee programme
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- Honorary Doctorates in November 2017 on Refugees and Migration
- Scholars at Risk network
- Sign the #WithRefugees petition
- The UNHCR #WithRefugees coalition