Rome: A group of 51 refugee students — 13 women and 38 men – have landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.
They will attend two-year Master’s programs at 33 Italian universities, on scholarships they received via the UNHCR-coordinated ‘UNICORE’ project.
The students were selected by the universities on the basis of academic merit and motivation following a public competition announced in April 2022.
Prior to their departure for Italy, the students attended an Italian language course made available by the Università per Stranieri of Perugia and Siena and the University of Notre Dame.
The students are the first to arrive as part of the fourth edition of the UNICORE program. Eligible to apply were refugees living in Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Earlier this year, UNHCR had announced that 69 students would be selected — indicating that more students may still arrive.
“The UNICORE program has changed my life: As you can imagine, a refugee doesn’t have many opportunities to study or make plans for the future,” said Bereket, one of the students to benefit from the program, in a press release provided by UNHCR. “UNICORE gave me hope. When I left Eritrea to go to Ethiopia I started studying business. This is how my passion for finance was born. When I was given the chance to continue my studies in Italy, I chose to stay in that branch. Once I graduate, my dream is to continue gaining experience, both by studying and working. If I can, one day I will go back to my country and maybe I will start my own business.”
Some 38 universities are taking part in UNICORE, and have made over 140 scholarships available in the last four years, according to UNHCR Italy.
UNHCR also said that its project partners — including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Caritas Italiana, Diaconia Valdese, Centro Astalli, Gandhi Charity, the Finanza Etica foundation, and a large network of local partners — would provide students with the necessary support to complete their studies and foster their integration into university life.
“Opportunities such as those offered by the University Corridors project are essential to give refugees the hope of building a prosperous future and we will continue to work towards making them accessible to more and more people,” said Clare Cardoletti, UNHCR Representative for Italy, the Holy See and San Marino.
UNHCR also praised the UNICORE project as part of its efforts to increase university access for refugees. Globally, only 5% of refugees have access to higher education compared with 38% of the non-refugee population, according to UNHCR.