At midday, a group of students carrying welcome messages written on cardboard signs made their way to the university gym. They were on their way to welcome the newly arrived refugees.
Many students want to support the emergency refugee centre in some way. Annick Peters, who is doing a Master’s degree, is one of them. ‘I’d like to do something and this is the very least I can do.’ Before going to the gym, she had helped out at the collection point set up in the Polak building.
No sweets or food
Some students sat down to talk to the refugees. However, Annick chose to listen rather than talk. ‘I find it a bit scary to talk to them in person.’
One student felt that the refugees seemed bored. ‘They would like to have some books or games to pass the time,’ Annick added. Several students asked the security guards what the refugees needed most. ‘No food or sweets, because we’re not allowed to pass those on,’ one of them said.
‘They smile and seem very grateful’
It was mostly male refugees who talked to the students, whilst the women and children sat outside on the café terrace. ‘I was told that most of the women and babies come from Syria,’ said Annick. ‘Their only possessions are the clothes on their backs.’ The student said she was impressed with the refugees’ attitude. ‘They smile and seem very grateful. I wasn’t expecting that, after everything they’ve been through.’