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Assisting and Housing Refugees on Campus

Christine McHugh, Esq., ARM
May 2023
Housing Refugees
Incorporate risk management practices into your institution’s programs and initiatives to assist and house refugees.

At many colleges and universities, students and faculty seek to aid refugees on campus, in the local community, and abroad. This support often involves short-term or long-term initiatives, academic programs, or volunteer projects.

Consider the following risk management practices if your campus community seeks to help or house refugees.

Strategies to Provide Refugee Support

Campus support for refugees can happen in many ways, including through your existing programs. Colleges and universities often assist refugees in these ways:

If your institution has these or similar efforts underway, be sure they’re subject to your standard risk management practices. For example, apply your institution’s academic policies to academic offerings, your student activity or events policies to student-led efforts, and your protocol for international experiences where applicable.

Guidance for Housing Refugees

One growing higher education initiative involves housing refugees on campus. Increasing numbers of institutions are joining the Every Campus a Refuge (ECAR) initiative, which encourages colleges and universities around the world to assist in resettlement efforts by hosting one refugee family on campus.

Institutions participating in the ECAR program work with local refugee resettlement agencies to match with a refugee family to host.

The local agency provides the structure and resources to help integrate refugees into the larger community and helps facilitate finding employment, job training, language skills programs, social services benefits, daycare, and schooling. The educational institution provides free housing and utilities and free access to campus facilities and amenities for several months until the family integrates into the local community and is financially stable.

If your institution plans to host a family through ECAR, follow the extensive guidance about establishing a campus program and coordinating the logistics of hosting. Gain buy-in and support from your President and administration, and ensure robust coordination across your institution, including:

  • Housing
  • General Counsel
  • Public Safety
  • Risk Management and Insurance office
  • Finance

Ensure your institution completes all necessary registrations, notifications, and documentation. For example:

  • Appoint a program coordinator who will be your institution’s primary contact with the resettlement agency.
  • Sign a memorandum of understanding with the resettlement agency to delineate roles and responsibilities of the agency and your institution.
  • Confirm your institution’s insurance policy covers the students, faculty, and volunteers participating in any campus project or organization.
  • Require refugee families to sign a lease to formalize provided housing and sign any necessary releases or waivers for use of campus facilities.
  • Coordinate volunteers to prepare for refugees’ arrival and provide day-to-day assistance to the family.

Review ECAR’s best practices guidance and implementation checklist for more preparation details.

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