Refugees Welcome!

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With a student body highly engaged in matters of social justice and home to the largest concentration of refugee and migration scholars in North America, York students, staff, faculty and alumni work to welcome refugees into our communities, raise awareness of refugee and forced migration issues and to improve the policies surrounding them.

With these goals in mind, the Syria Response and Refugee Initiative, as well as many York student groups are participating in an Amnestie internationale, Amnesty International Canada and Canadian Council for Refugees inspired “Refugees Welcome Here!” campaign, a sentiment and approach that will continue long after the immediate campaign is over. Both hyperlinks contain valuable resources on the campaign from each organization. You can view and take the Refugees Welcome Here! pledge at this link.

Refugees Welcome Here!

Amidst the global refugee crisis, this campaign calls for more refugees to be admitted into Canada and for greater fairness in their treatment and for our communities to better welcome them. It seeks to combat myths about refugees and emphasize their contributions. We see these contributions daily on the York campus through initiatives such as our campus WUSC committees and in our communities.

Co-chaired by student volunteers Omaima Massood (Schulich) and Humaima Ashfaque (Global Health) , the goals of this campaign have been to educate York students and the wider community about refugee issues and encourage students and community members to work together to address them.

In the Fall 2016 term the Muslim Students Association raised $1500 for the Glendon Collective sponsorship team through fundraising at weekly prayers to support this project.  They also helped lead a coat drive for the FCJ Refugee Centre, bridging what is sometimes seen as a divide between “inland” refugee claimants and “overseas resettlement.” UNICEF@YorkU helped lead a drive to pay off the transportation loans of two Keele WUSC committee sponsored refugee students.

Reflective of the strength and recognition of York’s efforts, YU Syria Response and Refugee Initiative Project Lead John Carlaw who has supported many of these efforts was invited by Amnesty International Canada to be listed as a “Canadian Refugee Champion” and Humaima Ashfaque has become a Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Leader who helped to plan and execute its 2017 national Youth Action Gathering. However that is just the tip of the iceberg of refugee engagement on the York campus, and we encourage you to explore this site to see what our student groups and others on campus are doing.

From Adversity to Action

Through a Newcomer Civic Youth Engagement Grant obtained from the Canadian Council for Refugees, this project also supported a student-led “From Adversity to Action” day of activities for newcomer youth and allies on Saturday, January 28th, 2017 run by a team of 11 York student organizers and facilitators of the event who produced resource kits on several themes. Youth participants discussed and strategized around refugee policy and four other themes of interest with experts on hand to assist.  They presented both their general concerns and civic action plans to City of Toronto Newcomer Advocate and City Councillor Joe Mhevic and Canadian Council for Refugee President Loly Rico.

Refugees Welcome Here! Week

In March 2017, the project and partner student groups carried out an exciting and well-attended Refugees Welcome Here! Week that included events featuring creative student efforts as well as leaders in law and advocacy in this field. Participating groups included Amnesty International at York, CARL Osgoode, Centre for Refugee Studies and its Student Caucus, CERLAC, Islamic Relief, RefugeAid, Refugee Health Outreach, U of Mosaic York U Fellows, UNICEF York and WUSC Keele.

Community Engagement: 2017 Toronto Refugee Rights Month Planning Committee

Within Toronto, the York University Syria Response and Refugee Initiative (SRRI), the Centre for Refugee Studies, Osgoode Hall Law School and Amnesty International at York University were members of the 2017 Refugee Rights Month Planning Committee, part of a city-wide group organizing and highlighting a month-long series of events to highlight the importance of refugee rights. At the committee’s request the City of Toronto agreed to recognize April 2017 as Refugee Rights Awareness Month.

York’s SSRI planned and hosted a well-attended April 4th Refugee Rights Day panel discussion on York’s Keele campus  and supported the month’s keynote panel– the Singh Decision Matters in 2017 . York student photographer Amina Khan of UNICEF@York captured York’s Refugee Rights Day panel and the month’s launch at City Hall on camera.

Get involved!

If you would like to become involved, please contact us at .