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Gothenburg university provides refugee 'haven'

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Gothenburg university provides refugee 'haven'
Students at Gothenburg University, where the academics will be based. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
14:44 CET+01:00
Two academics from Syria and Pakistan have been given the first research posts in Sweden created specifically for threatened scholars. They'll be based at Gothenburg University which has told The Local it's working to expand the programme nationwide.
The academics have been given the opportunity to continue research they started in their home countries and could also teach students in the future, staff at the university in western Sweden have revealed.
 
In addition, the pair have been offered accommodation and are being encouraged to participate in workshops and seminars on campus.
 
"We see them as guest researchers (...) and they will be paid a salary," Helena Lindholm, Gothenburg University's Vice Chancellor, told The Local.
 
She expained that the duo would be based in the Social Sciences and Humanities departments, but said that their names were not currently being made public in order to ensure their safety.
 
The initiative was organized via Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network of some 400 higher education institutions dedicated to protecting threatened scholars and promoting academic freedom worldwide. These include those who could face intimidation or censorship as well as people who have fled abroad because of general violence in their home country.
 
Despite Sweden being among the EU states with the highest proportion of refugees per capita, it is the first time that a Swedish university has accepted academic staff directly through SAR.
 
"Among the refugees there are of course scholars, scientists and researchers who are in need of places to be to continue their work (...) we support academic freedom," said Lindholm.
 
The Vice Chancellor said that Gothenburg University was hoping to take in another "one or two" academics in 2016.
 
She is also leading efforts to encourage other Swedish universities in the SAR network to offer similar sanctuary, and said that she felt it was "only a matter of time" before more institutions followed Gothenburg's example.
 
Refugee academics seeking to participate in the programme are encouraged to make their cases directly to SAR, which will then work with further education bodies to try to match them to universities and departments.
 
"We want to find them a research environment where they can develop their research," said Lindholm.
 
"It's about mutual benefit." 
 
Sweden is expected to take in a total of 190,000 refugees in 2015.
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