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Refugees in Chile

UC Supports the Arrival of Five Afghan Families for their integration in Chile

The group is part of the UC Chile Intercultural Program, aiming to help with Spanish lessons, medical assistance, psychosocial support and access to international services.

UC Chile will provide Spanish classes, medical assistance, psychosocial support and access to the international services program to Afghan refugee families in Chile. (Photo: UC Social Work)

photo_camera Photo: UC Social Work

Sakina and Masouma are both art and sculpture students at Kabul University.

They show us images on their phones of one of three murals they painted on the Afghan National Television building, commemorating 100 years since their country gained independence from Britain.

But with the return of the Taliban regime last August 15, 2021, their murals were immediately covered with gray paint. "They are against art and artists," Sakina said. The threatening message was clear to both, so they decided to leave their home.

Taliban erased the mural (left) painted by Sakina Hassani (right). The BBC highlighted the image in the middle. (Images from Instagram)

So together with 16 other people, including seven children, they decided to leave Afghanistan and take refuge in Chile. They took a month-long journey and travelled 16,000 kilometers, stopping in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and France. Finally, they arrived in Santiago last September 2021. Since then, the university has deployed its team of faculty members, professionals, and student volunteers to coordinate efforts to support their inclusion and induction into Chilean society.

"The university has activated its UC Intercultural Program to work with internal institutions, civil organizations, and the Government to welcome the group. 'They come from a difficult political and civil situation. They have limited resources to settle in Chile,' stated the professor of the School of Psychology of the UC Faculty of Social Sciences, Roberto González, who also leads the Intercultural Program. "UC Chile can help build more realistic and direct support services for refugees," he added.

The university invited the group to participate in an intense three-month Spanish lesson by the Faculty of Literature, UC Spanish Program to assist with their social insertion. 
"Language is the main vehicle for integrating any non-native speaker," said its director, professor Gloria Toledo, who organized a reception for the families.

Spanish coursebooks were handed over, and the teams split into sections: one for parents, one for children, and one for people with no children.

"The course will begin this October 25 and will be held three times a week, in addition to tutoring by undergraduate students of courses related to the teaching of Spanish as a Foreign Language. This project has raised awareness among our students, who in 2018 also collaborated in teaching Spanish to Haitian immigrants." 

Psychosocial Support and More

Afghans and members of the UC in the auditorium of the Faculty of Literature on October 13. (Photo: César Cortés.)

The Faculty of Social Sciences is developing a "psychosocial support system," which includes supporting Afghan families during their first days in the country. The support is provided until they can better adjust to their new home. "Today, these families live in two Jesuit residences, one in the Padre Hurtado municipality and the other in Toesca, but these are temporary solutions. We are collaborating in the search for funding to find permanent housing," added Professor Gonzalez.

Once they settle down, the idea is that psychosocial support will be available to help with the social integration and relationship with the local community, including schools and family health centers.

"Between the Faculty and the School of Social Work, we can contribute with short, medium- and long-term actions in the process of insertion into our society. We can provide support and show how our country works and how the Social Protection Network works. We have a crucial role as change agents from an academic perspective," said ETSUC professor Olaya Grau. 

Additionally, the Faculty of Medicine provides support by reviewing the current vaccination status for children and adults. Furthermore, the UC Office of Campus Ministry and Christian Culture (Pastoral) organizes activities for the youngest, including a  Christmas celebration in December. 

Cultural Exchange Opportunity

Afghan children at the San Joaquin campus on October 13. (Photo: School of Social Work)

Fawad Rasa (25), an engineer and geologist, is part of this group of new migrants. He's planning to pursue a master's degree and start a new life in Chile with his wife and children. He would like to take part in organising events to promote Afghan culture and values to the university community.

"We would love to show the diverse cultures that co-exist in Afghanistan. Also, the artwork of Sakina and Masouma and the work of the Afghan young women's climbing movement—in which my wife is involved—and explain why we had to leave our country," he said.
 The activities are linked to the Anglo-Afghan sports foundation Ascend Athletics, whose mission is to work with young Afghan women to empower their leadership through climbing.

"The basic right to migration and the welfare of foreign communities in our country are two strong lines of study and research in our Faculty, which we can actively support. I believe this is an opportunity for reciprocal exchange to build bridges. It's a chance to generate links by learning different cultures, values and languages," said the dean of UC Social Sciences, Mariane Krause. 

According to Professor Roberto González, a group of volunteers led by UC lawyer Sebastián Villarreal is forming to provide relevant networks, assistance and contacts to support insertion in Chile. The idea is to set up a working group with the different stakeholders that wish to join us. 

Would you like to be a volunteer? You can contact Professor Gonzalez at his e-mail address:

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