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Supporting International Students in Crisis

March 2011

Host institutions have a special duty of care to their international students and even more so in crisis situations. At the moment there is an unprecedented level of upheaval and suffering in several parts of the world: natural disasters in Japan and New Zealand and violent political conflicts in Libya, Bahrain and other North African and Middle Eastern countries. At times like these, it is to be anticipated that international students from the affected countries may be impacted on emotionally if not also materially and institutions need to be prepared to offer the necessary assistance.

Many colleges do have the necessary protocols and policies in place but different situations often require a unique set of responses and it is good to have some preparatory work done. Those following international discussions on the Libyan crisis will know that some Libyan students may wish to go home to be with their families; some may want to apply for asylum; many have huge money concerns as their money from home ceases. Japanese students may have different worries as they witness the devastation wreaked on their country by the recent earthquake and tsunami and the on-going threat from damaged nuclear facilities.

A Code of Practice and Guidelines for Higher Education Institutions on the Provision of Education to International Students (2009) contains specific reference to the requirement for HEIs to have Hardship and Emergency Policies and Provision in place.

ICOS would urge all educational institutions hosting international students from countries affected by crises to respond early and with sensitivity to students who may be in difficulty because of situations outside their control. The first response will be to identify the students who may be affected by the crisis and to send a supportive message and ensure students know how to avail of any support available within the college or in the community.