University Sport Centre open again from Saturday
The University Sport Centre (USC) at the Einsteinweg in Leiden will be open again for sports enthusiasts on Saturday 31 October. Students of the University will also be able to use the Sport Centre for their exams from Monday 2 November.
Since Friday 23 October, Leiden University has provided accommodation for some 120 refugees in the USC. The refugees will remain here up to and including Friday 30 October 18.00 hrs. at the latest, and will then leave for another location in Leiden where they can stay for a longer period. The whole Sport Centre will be available again for use by sports enthusiasts, staff and students from 08.30 hrs. on Saturday.
The Municipality of Leiden and COA have found a new solution for the 250 refugees in the region, including the refugees who have been staying in the USC. They will be moving to the former TNO premises, Wassenaarseweg 56-58 in Leiden. ‘This will bring to an end the unfortunate situation whereby this group of refugees has had to move to a new location every week,’ commented a spokesperson from the municipality. They will be able to stay at these premises for a year. Residents of the neighbourhood and local institutions and companies were informed on Wednesday by letter about the reception centre in their area. This arrangement means that the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, ICLON and the UFB are about to have some new neighbours.
Many dozens of volunteers, staff of the University and people from outside, have worked hard over the past week to make all the arrangements needed for the refugees’ stay in the USC. To make their stay as pleasant as possible, an activity programme was organised that included language lessons, football, hockey, music, tours of the town, science experiments and games for the children. Volunteers from the student associations played a large part in this. People from Leiden and the neighbouring municipalities also contributed by donating a wide range of goods, including clothing and toys.
Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker: ‘We have had so many heartwarming responses, and hundreds of volunteers have stepped forward; so many, in fact, that we even had to disappoint some of them. The efforts of our staff and students have been tremendous. I know the refugees are very grateful for the warm welcome they were given.’
The fact that the USC was being used by the refugees had consequences for sports enthusiasts who normally use the main building of the USC and for students who were due to take their exams there this week. The exams were shifted to other locations in Leiden. There were no implications for users of the other University premises in the area (Faculty of Science, Archaeology, Social and Behavioural Sciences, the LUMC and the Bio Science Park). From Saturday everything will be back to normal.
The request for accommodation came from the Municipality of Leiden and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA). The Executive Board believes it is important for the University to fulfil our civic responsibilities and to do what we can to meet such requests. Carel Stolker: ‘The refugee crisis in Europe is a major human disaster and, if we are asked for assistance, we want to play our part in alleviating the situation.’
The reception of the refugees in the USC is expected to be a one-time request, although the University does not exclude the possibility that the municipality and the COA may make a similar request in the event of a future emergency.
(29 October 2015)