Call to universities, professional schools and the KNAW: Give refugees the room and opportunity for a meaningful stay

With this petition, the undersigned strongly request an immediate expansion of possibilities for refugees to continue building their academic careers as students and guest researchers. We call on all university and professional school employees and students to support this initiative and contribute to other initiatives aimed at integrating refugees into the academic community. We ask that universities and professional schools quickly develop supportive policies, remove bureaucratic obstacles, provide both money and facilities and support initiatives coming from their personnel and students. We are also asking organizations such as the VSNU, NWO, and KNAW to give their full cooperation and assist with coordination efforts. We further expect political and material support from the Minister for Education and Science.

During these past months and weeks we have witnessed with shock and dismay the inability of European governments and the European Union to respond to the growing stream of refugees and looming humanitarian disaster in a fitting and united way. Fortunately Europe’s citizens have moved to fill the vacuum these past days with countless collective and individual initiatives.

The number of refugees will greatly increase in Europe and, therefore, also in the Netherlands. We face the task – in consultation with these newcomers – of providing shelter and a future that offers more than just a closed-off corner in a dismal hall or tents and barracks with no more than a view of cows, pig stalls or the next potato or beet harvest. Beyond providing basic refuge, this entails facilities in which deprivation and grief can be overcome and the goal of building a meaningful and dignified existence can be met. This won’t be easy, but with the creativity and determination of many and the strong support and cooperation of leaders and administrators we can accomplish great things, especially if people of good will investigate what can be done in their own locales.

Options in the areas of higher education and scientific research:

  • Offer extra space for sheltering students with refugee status until they can begin or re-start their educational programmes (with the cooperation of UAF);
  • Create positions for guest researchers in all faculties and research institutes, including the necessary facilities;
  • Together with each other and other (educational) institutions, offer fitting education and courses;
  • Define and fund research projects in which refugees’ problems, experiences, expertise and capabilities can be put to use, for example [1] in the fields of refugee policy and refugee care; [2] in the fields of conflict transformation, peace-building and development; [3] knowledge of the countries and regions of origin;
  • Organize lectures, education and other activities that support the integration of refugees in the Netherlands and Europe
  • Organize lectures, education and other activities about the regions from which refugees come (for and with refugees and Dutch citizens).

We want to emphasize strongly that this initiative is not an elitist attempt aimed primarily at helping those with an advanced education. All refugees deserve to be offered a perspective in keeping with their ambitions and capabilities. This can be achieved in the Netherlands if everyone looks around them to see what they and those in their environment can contribute. We call on our colleagues, students and administrators to do this in our institutions and hope that the same will happen in other sectors as well.