Refugee Rights the Focus of 8×8 Festival

The 8×8 Festival is running in UCD from October 1st – 8th. It’s a student led initiative held on college campuses across Ireland funded by Irish Aid. This year it will focus on the rights of refugees. The festival will have a striking outside exhibition as well as events throughout the week. The festival wants to focus on how everyday freedoms are taken for granted by us when they’re being denied to so many people across the globe.

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Speaking about the subject of the festival Helen Spillane, one of the organisers said ““We are currently experiencing the largest displacement of people since the second World War.Millions of men, women and children are on the move and living in appalling conditions, often making perilous journeys in search of safety for themselves and their families,”.

“Working with the 8×8 Team and artist Deirdre Ambrose over the summer, we created an exhibition that highlights just some of the problems faced by refugees and asylum seekers. It uses images of everyday objects and situations that we hope will bring home the reality and human tragedy of this situation to students.” she added.

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Amongst the issues raised, the students are keen to focus on the barriers to education that many refugees and asylum seekers face here in Ireland. Asylum seekers are not entitled to free fees and must pay non-EU fees which can cost anywhere in region of €10,000 – €50,000. To combat this, the students want UCD to become a University of Sanctuary such as Dublin City University (DCU) and the University of Limerick (UL). The Universities of Sanctuary is an international project which gives universities a model to welcome refugees and asylum seekers to allow them equal access to education.

Festival coordinator Muireann O’Shea explained “We want to send a message loud and clear to our campus that we welcome refugees and asylum seekers.” As part of the 8×8 Festival, students will be gathering signatures for a petition to present to call on the campus to do whatever it takes to attain its University of Sanctuary status and support refugees and asylum seekers.”

For more information on the festival, follow their Facebook page or check out the event page here.

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Rachel O’Neill – Editor

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