Municipality helps refugee students

The municipality and UAF, a foundation for refugee students, are joining forces to make it easier for refugees in Groningen to finish their studies.

The municipality of Groningen and the UAF foundation signed an agreement on Wednesday detailing the collaboration. The two parties and the knowledge institutions in the city of Groningen wanted to repeal certain requirements for refugee students in order to better enable them to enrol in classes.

Imran Safi is one such refugee student. He fled from Afghanistan to the Netherlands three years ago and is now enrolled in the International Business and Management pre-master programme at the RUG. Safi was also present during the signing of the covenant between the municipality of Groningen and the UAF. In a speech, Safi repeatedly expressed how happy he is to be able to study.

Looking for work

But it is no simple task for a refugee to enrol at the RUG. Because refugees are on social welfare, they have to comply with certain rules. These requirements, such as having to look for work, ensure that many refugees are not able to successfully complete their studies. The covenant aims to change that.

Ton Schroor, alderman for education, explains that the current rules will be suspended for a period of three years. That ought to enable refugee students to focus completely on getting their degree. ‘In doing so, we can help our refugee students to take further steps in their new lives’, Schroor emphasises.

Rules and regulations

UAF director Mardjan Seighali describes the covenant as a wonderful initiative. ‘Studying for refugees is always a challenge because it’s in a new language and under new living conditions’, Seighali says. ‘You leave so much behind, and you really have to find yourself again. You want to be who you were before. The covenant means that they do not have to worry about all kinds of rules and regulations, of which we have many in the Netherlands, on a daily basis.’

Furthermore, the covenant should make it easier to move on from an academic programme into an appropriate job, Seighali explains. Imran Safi already knows what he wants to do upon graduation. ‘I am considering either working for the UN or for a multinational company’, the student says. ‘If neither of those work out, I’ll become an entrepreneur.’