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Student exploring asylum seeker experience wins Welsh development award

4 May 2021

Keira McNulty
Keira McNulty

A School of Law and Politics student has been awarded a £2500 development award to carry out a community project on asylum seekers.

International Relations student, Keira McNulty (BA 2019, MScEcon 2021) has been named as this year’s winner of the Worshipful Livery Company of Wales Silver Jubilee Development Award.

Keira will receive the £2500 fund later this year to embark on a project inspired by her dissertation which investigated the idea of home as a conceptual object in regard to sanctuary and asylum-seeking groups.

Keira found that refugees and asylum seekers need to interact with a multitude of organisations in order to become residents in Wales. International organisations, UK Immigration Law, Welsh Policy and local community organisations each play a crucial role in helping sanctuary seekers (Re)define their idea of home. It is only after navigating a complex legal route that determines refugee status, that asylum seekers can begin to integrate themselves into the institutions within their country of migration (language, labour market, the established community, etc).

Keira plans to use her award to fund a photography project led by sanctuary seeking groups in Wales. She will travel to all dispersal areas in Wales and conduct walking interviews with participants and wishes to find out more about their experiences of Wales, both positive and negative. Her hope is to give people a platform to talk about the issues they have faced and to share their own personal narratives.

Throughout her MSc, Keira volunteered with people seeking asylum, becoming a mentor and point of contact for people within accommodation provided by Home4U, a small charity that gives accommodation to people seeking asylum, who also face destitution and homelessness.

Keira said, “While volunteering I came across a person who had been in the asylum system for six years. He told me that he had lost his home due to internal conflict in his country and wanted to rebuild a home here, but the rigid system would not permit it. Just like so many people seeking asylum in the UK, he lacked the right to work and had to wait years to prove his claim for asylum. If it weren’t for community organisations and the charitable work of individuals, he would have had no support.”

She said, “Too often, we group people together and talk about experiences through a single lens, forgetting that people have multidimensional identities and unique experiences. My plan is to build a website with the photos and quotes I gather and raise awareness about the plight of sanctuary seekers.”

Dr Sara Dezalay, Senior Lecturer in International Relations, who supported Keira with her application said, “Keira’s achievement showcases the immense resilience of our students in these difficult times, and I hope this carries on in the future. We are grateful to Agnes Xavier-Phillips (LLB 1983), Chair of the PR Committee of the Worshipful Livery Company of Wales and to TJ Rawlinson, Head of Development and Alumni Relations, for bringing the Silver Jubilee Development Award and the Livery Company to our attention .”

The Worship Livery Company of Wales (formerly known as the Welsh Livery Guild) was set up in 1993 to promote education, the arts, science and technology in Wales. Its Silver Jubilee Development Award is presented to an outstanding young person to further their academic or professional development by undertaking an innovative project or participating in a high-level course not previously covered by the Livery’s Awards scheme. The Silver Jubilee Development Award is funded by the monies raised by Past Master Gillian Davies through the Silver Jubilee Appeal Fund.

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