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Recruiting New Members

April 15th, 2014 April 15th, 2014
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The University of Toronto Refugee Alliance is looking for new members for the 2014-2015 academic year!

Click to download the application form: UTRA New Member Application 2014.

UTRA Fundraiser March 19

January 27th, 2014 January 27th, 2014
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Click here to purchase tickets or make a donation.

Click here to purchase tickets or make a donation.

December 18 Volunteer Day at Christie Refugee Welcome Centre

December 9th, 2013 December 9th, 2013
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Interested in refugee issues in Toronto? Want do something positive for the holidays? The University of Toronto Refugee Alliance is organizing a volunteer day with the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre on December 18 from 10am to 3pm. Feel free to come out for the whole day, or just drop in for a couple hours. We’ll be helping the centre organize after some renovations and sort through donated clothing, but there will also be opportunities to learn about the different services the centre provides and find out about further volunteer opportunities. For more information email sam.vanberkel@mail.utoronto.ca.

If you’re able to come out to volunteer, please fill out the volunteer form so that we can keep track of numbers and provide updates: http://goo.gl/TKHltI. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing!

About Christie Refugee Welcome Centre

Each year approximately 400 refugees from around the world call the Welcome Centre their “first home in Canada.” The mission of the Centre is to provide temporary accommodation and initial settlement services for the families, as well as make referrals and provide practical items. The families we serve often arrive with very little and the support of Canadians everywhere allows us to extend a warm welcome to those who we serve.  To learn more visit our website: christiestreetrc.com.

Female Volunteers Needed! Borderless Higher Education

November 28th, 2013 November 28th, 2013
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The Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) Project aims to make educational programs available where refugees need them, and now you have the opportunity to help!

At this early stage of the project, to support the education of women in the program, the BHER Project Team is seeking out a small community of women affiliated with the New Scholars Network (NSN) internationally to engage in an online community with women in Dadaab. This online community is a pilot project and will be designed as a private Facebook Group (Facebook is already in high use in the camps). Participants will be asked to actively engage with BHER students in Dadaab to discuss pursuing higher education, managing time and stress, intercultural norms, challenges and expectations encountered during post-secondary study, to name a few topics. More information about the Facebook Group and expectations will be available to interested persons.

Criteria for Participation:

  • Female aged 17-35 and enrolled in or completed an undergraduate or graduate degree
  • Interested to communicate with and learn from women in Dadaab who have been accepted into BHER
  • Interested to seek out and share resources about higher education and other professional/life skills related to academic success online
  • Some knowledge of Dadaab and/or the sociocultural conditions of refugee camps, including education and access to education. *If you do not already have this knowledge but are interested to participate you will be asked to do a bit of reading on the area and topic

Expected Commitment:

  • 1-2 hour/week online communication via Facebook
  • In the initial weeks/start up, there may be an additional 1-2 hours of emailing with project coordinators to set things up and ensure that all participants have a base-knowledge of the area and BHER program (some reading may be involved!)
  • This project is a pilot and the initial implementation and associated commitment from participants is from December 2013 until at least April 2014, though we are looking for people who are interested to maintain long-standing relationships with the people they meet in Dadaab online (who are pursuing certificates/diplomas degrees for the next 1-4 years). *i.e. we are looking to build community, not just ‘solicit volunteers’.

If you are interested in participation in this online community please send an email with a brief description of your interest in the project and your CV to Negin Dahya (York University Research Assistant and PhD Candidate) at negin.dahya@gmail.com.

For more information on the BEHR Project visit http://crs.yorku.ca/bher












October 31, 2013 Reading Group Summary

November 3rd, 2013 November 3rd, 2013
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Thanks to everyone who was able to make it to the first reading group of the semester. The discussion focused on the millions who have been displaced because of the ongoing conflict in Syria. Lebanon also became a topic of discussion, as some elements of the conflict have spilled over into that country and aggravated tensions between different religious and political groups. There was an acknowledgement of the burden placed on host countries who find themselves home to large numbers of refugees, but also a sentiment that host countries and the international community need to do more to ensure access to medical care, education and other needs.

Later the discussion turned to the issue of refugees seeking asylum in North America, Europe or Australia. Often the journey can be a dangerous one, and even if refugees arrive safely they may face deportation, detention or be denied a work permit for a year or more. Refugee shelters and other groups play an important role in supporting refugees during this initial period.

October 31, 2013 – Reading Group

October 23rd, 2013 October 23rd, 2013
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The year’s first reading group will centre around the conflict in Syria and the issues faced by those displaced as a result. All are welcome to attend. The readings for the session are:


1) Health care access for Syrian refugees

2) Syria Crisis Timeline

3) UNICEF report on Syria

4) IRC Syria Review

More Articles Online Here:

5) The Economic and Human Toll of Syria\’s Worsening Refugee Crisis: Democracy Now! Interview with Omar Dahi

6) Photography: The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees:

7) (Dis)integration: Palestinian Refugees in the Syrian Civil War:

8)  Too Close for Comfort: Syrians in Lebanon

9) The Struggle of Twice-Displaced Refugees: Palestinians Fleeing Syria to Lebanon

10) The Syrian Refugee Crisis Intensifies

Day and location:

3-5pm Thursday October 31
Marvin Gerstein Room
Marvin Gerstein Science Information Centre, 9 King’s College Circle

Please leave a comment, or email us at uoftrefugeealliance@gmail.com if you have any questions.


Refugees in Toronto?

August 14th, 2013 August 14th, 2013
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Courtesy of Matthew House Services

When we think of refugees we envision a slum in a vast desert in faraway lands. But refugees are in the midst of the urban, multicultural Toronto melting-pot.

To know more about the life of refugees in Toronto, visit the website of our friends at local centers:
Matthew House

Welcoming 2013: Fundraising for Syria Emergency Reponse

January 22nd, 2013 January 22nd, 2013
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Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Refugee Panel Discussion on April 5th, 2012

April 23rd, 2012 April 23rd, 2012
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FOUNHCR at UofT hosted its first awareness event of the year on April 5th, 2012 at Hart House. The event showcased the objectives and accomplishments of UNHCR, followed by an inspiring talk from Simon Kuany. Simon discussed his journey from war-torn South Sudan to the University of Toronto, while highlighting the issues concerning refugees worldwide and what we can do to solve them.

Many thanks to all those who attended!




First Fundraiser of the Year! Buy a gift for your Valentine!

January 26th, 2012 January 26th, 2012
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Help Us Aid Refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camp by Buying Your Valentine Gifts!

Last year, more than 160,000 Somalis fled to Kenya to escape draught, famine and fighting in their homeland and a further 98,000 are sheltering in Ethiopia.

Many who set off for neighbouring countries do not survive the perilous journey. Mothers have been forced to watch, powerless, as their children die. Those that do make it to refugee camps are arriving in a terrible condition.

They need urgent medical assistance and nutritional support. They also need clean drinking water and shelter to protect them from the harsh climate.








UNHCR can give them this. We provide shelter, food, water, medical care and other basic necessities for refugee children and their families.

Money raised through this fundraiser will be used for:

$50: provides the five week supply of ready-to-use therapeutic food needed to bring back to health a severely malnourished child.

$100: survival kits – each has a blanket, mattress, kitchen set, stove and soap

$450: all-weather tent to shelter a refugee family

$5,500: nutrition survey kit, includes weighing scales (x5), height measuring board, haemocue machine and accessories (microcuvettes, lancet, etc.), and mid upper arm circumference tape

Here is more information by Debi Goodwin from the Globe and Mail about Dadaab:

Little has galvanized the world’s attention to the largest refugee camp in the world: Dadaab, a place described by UNHCR’s head Antonio Guterres as the “most difficult camp situation in

the world,” a situation Médecins Sans Frontières called a humanitarian emergency. Despite the warnings, Dadaab remains underfunded and overcrowded. Attempts at publicity, like the visit two years ago by celebrity UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, have done little to change the lives of those stuck there.

Recently, the Danish Refugee Council, perhaps out of frustration, devised a bolder strategy. It created a game with the working title of The Worst Vacation Ever, and posted on Facebook as “The City That Shouldn’t Exist.” Players were asked to save the lives of 100,000 hungry, thirsty refugees headed to the world’s largest camp, with the chance to win a trip for two to Dadaab. The agency was attempting to reach out to young people in a medium they understood, but had to suspend the game after over criticism of insensitivity.

If the three camps that make up Dadaab were a city, it would be Kenya’s fourth largest, but one at the fringes of its citizens’ consciousness. When the Kenyan government realized how many Somali refugees were flooding into the country after the Somali civil war in 1991, they pushed thousands of refugees into the camps in the remote northeastern region far from the centre of power in Nairobi, far from opportunity. The camps should have provided temporary shelter for 90,000 people, but as the war and ensuing anarchy continued in Somalia they became home to more than 300,000 people. MSF predicts there will be 450,000 residents by the end of the year.

There are young adults who have spent their whole lives in the camps. And they live with restrictions unimaginable to few outside of prison. There is little possibility of movement beyond the camp. There is no chance of getting a job or of integrating into “the real Kenya.” The Kenyan government offers none of the rights described in the UN’s 1951 refugee convention. And the Western world does little to protest this treatment.

Life in the hot, arid camps is hard. There is rarely enough food, water or safety. Yet each month about 5,000 people cross the nearby, closed border with Somalia. In 2008, UNHCR declared the camps full. That summer I talked to new arrivals who had walked for days across the desert to get to Dadaab, only to find there was nowhere for them to live. They slept under the few acacia trees large enough to provide shade and lined up for ration cards for food. When Ms. Jolie visited the camps in 2009, she commented: “If this is the better solution, what must it be like in Somalia?”

Just as no one has found a solution for peace in Somalia, no one has envisioned lasting solutions to the crisis of Dadaab. A handful of countries, including Canada, resettle families. Canadian university students sponsor a dozen or so single young people through World University Service of Canada. UNHCR attempted to expand the camps until talks with local leaders broke down. Even if more space could have been found, the solution would have been temporary and done nothing to address the underlying horror of people being warehoused because no one knows what to do.

UNHCR came into existence after the Second World War with the aim of protecting the rights of displaced people. When refugees were still living in camps well into the 1950s, then High Commissioner for Refugees, Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart, called those camps “black spots on the map of Europe” and warned residents could become “easy prey for political adventurers.” Today, the majority of refugees under UNHCR’s care remain in camps, their lives on hold for the unforeseeable future – in camps, like Dadaab, that we must come to accept as black spots on the globe before lasting solutions can be found.