June 20, 2024

World Refugee Day 2024: meet Archange, Vichy and William


Dreams and worries walk hand in hand for Archange, Vicky and William.

They are young refugee students at the University of Cagliari.

Archange comes from the Central African Republic and is now enrolled for a Master degree in Environmental Engineering for Sustainable Development at the University of Cagliari. Vicky comes from South Sudan and is enrolled for a Master degree in International Management. William comes from South Sudan and is enrolled for a Master degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology. 

They have been in Italy since last December. They arrived from Morocco, where their refugee status was recognized and where they accomplished their bachelor degrees thanks to a scholarship combined with … their tenacity.

What will be the future after graduation, is not yet clear.

The SAFE project and the Complementary Pathways

In the framework of the SAFE project – a three-year project co-funded by the European Union and aimed at fostering the collaboration between stakeholders at a transnational level to develop and improve access to international protection through private sponsorship schemes and complementary pathways – UNIMED implemented three education complementary pathways. Putting together several stakeholders, such as universities, national branches of UNHCR and embassies, UNIMED performed a capacity building activity leading to the arrival of the three young refugee students who enrolled in a two-year-Master’s degree at the University of Cagliari (Italy).

Following the launch of the Call for applications, 30 applications were received for selection. As stated in the Call, the scholarship kindly granted by Fondazione di Sardegna covered 3 students, who accepted it with a great deal of enthusiasm and immediately set off on their new lives.

The challenges for the Complementary Pathways implementation

Many challenges have accompanied the implementation of the SAFE complementary pathways. On a time scale, it is firstly essential to address the release of travel documents, which have a key role in ensuring legal channels.

Moreover, as the need for international protection is already recognised in the first country of asylum, it is necessary to facilitate the procedures for beneficiaries, both before their departure and after their arrival. However, there is currently no systematic recognition of refugee status on arrival and students arrive as foreign students even if they have refugee status recognised in the country of first asylum.

Recognition of prior learning and qualifications, and the ability to provide original documents to prove this, are also major difficulties. 

Finally, the implementation of complementary pathways is constrained by limited resources. Many stakeholders, such as universities, who want to implement a pilot project on a complementary pathway are struggling to secure the necessary funding.

Costs range from travel, visa, translation and legalisation of original documents before departure, to residence permit, health care, food, accommodation, telephone and public transport on arrival.

Cost coverage is not the only support needed by the beneficiaries once in the host country. Italian language courses are essential for integration into both academic and social life. Lastly, mentoring programmes facilitate peer-to-peer relations among students.

Archange, Vicky and William

We have met Archange, Vichy and William and it is now easier to understand why their dreams walk hand in hand with their worries. Worries are linked to the future because of their status.They have a constant feeling of transience and seek certainty for their future plans.

For now their dreams are stronger, their positive energy too. 

Vicky wants to start a project to help people in her country of origin “I am imagining a lot of things for my future. The first aim is just to finish and maybe try to help people back home, because in my family, I’m like the first person to go abroad and study. Everyone’s eyes are on me and I want to try to make them proud.

Archange is dreaming of a job that will let him travel all around the world and through which he could help people. “I would like to focus more on the energy sector of Environmental Engineering”.

William wants to be a clinical laboratory technologist “I am really learning a lot here at the University of Cagliari. The University has high technology equipment and I hope to succeed in the results analysis to pursue my dreams”.  For now he is struggling with the huge number of oral exams: it was not usual in his previous studying system to have so many oral exams.

Vicky and Archange confirm this data.

Being a student is all about studying and your determination. I don’t find much difficulties for all the support I have where I am studying. Ok, there are some difficulties, but sometimes you find out that this is life… so people go through a lot but you know how to get through it.” said Vichy during our conversation.

The World Refugee Day 

The right to freedom of movement is one of the most debated and controversial issues in the world. A migrant is a person who moves away from his or her usual place of residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons. The reason for migration determines a migrant’s status and rights. Someone who is forced to flee because of a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group” is a refugee entitled to international protection (source).

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on 20 June and shines a light on the rights, needs and dreams of those forced to flee (source).