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Science buddies for refugee scientists

The members of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences have taken the initiative to open their networks to interested scientists and academics who had to flee their country.

They have decided to act as intermediary and to create opportunities for refugees to get to know Dutch universities from inside. This could include enabling people to participate in research seminars, to provide access to online databases through hospitality agreements and advise on ways to either obtain scholarships or research positions. The Young Academy is inspired by the great work of organisations and programs such as Scholars at Risk and the UAF and hopes that through this initiative it can contribute to these existing programmes.

Suggestions how we could reach more academic refugees? Please contact us via

From Aleppo to Delft University of Technology

Malek Rabah (37) fled Syria in 2014 with his wife and two small children, who are now five and two and a half years of age. His little boy already speaks Dutch better than he does, although Malek is making tremendous progress.

After gaining a Bachelor’s degree in electrical and electromagnetic engineering at the University of Aleppo, Malek started up his own sustainable energy firm and worked as a subcontractor for various larger companies. The civil war brought an end to life as he knew it. After being shuttled between various refugee centres, he arrived in Delft, where he has lived since 2015. While living at the refugee centre in Dronten, his case manager, who regularly asked for his help as an interpreter, pointed out The Young Academy’s offer to match academically trained refugees, including researchers, with potentially useful contacts and facilities in its network. Chairperson Rianne Letschert put Malek in touch with Behnam Taebi, a professor of philosophy at Delft University of Technology who studies the ethics of nuclear energy. Taebi, a new member of The Young Academy, guided him through the Dutch higher education system and suggested an interesting study programme and the best route to admission. ‘We only spoke twice, but it saved me a whole year of waiting!’ With support from the Universal Asylum Fund (UAF), a Dutch NGO, Malek began working on a Master's degree in sustainable energy technology at Delft. ‘Behnam helped me with all sorts of practical matters. I’m happy to be enrolled in a university programme in my field so that I can start a new life with my family.  It’s very important for migrants to study or work because it eases their integration into Dutch society. That’s why I believe The Young Academy’s initiative should be promoted much more widely among academically trained refugees.’

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