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Refugee and Irish teens are learning how to work together and live together on a sailboat, thanks to the project Safe Haven Ireland. It teaches young people sailing and integration in a week-long programon the country's seas, aboard the "Spirit of Oysterhaven," Ireland 's largest sail training vessel.

The project began in 2015. "We include young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, prioritizing those who have experienced the asylum system in Ireland," said the project's organisers on their website. "We offer places to Irish-national participants, often from inner city areas, who would not otherwise have this kind of opportunity. The trainees in each group come together to undertake the experience of a lifetime. 


The participants learn how to sail a ship and how to navigate in challenging Irish coastal waters. They build strong bonds with each other by virtue of a shared experience which in many cases will go on to have a profound influence on the rest of their lives. The young people educate each other about their backgrounds and different cultures and together forge a new vision for their shared futures on the island of Ireland".

Syrians and locals on the same ship 

This summer one of the project's trips included a group of 10 Syrian and Irish young people, who worked, cooked, slept, and lived together for a week learning how to hold the helm, pull ropes, and hoist sails. More importantly, they became friends.UN refugee agency UNHCR told their story with a video and an article. Among those featured is Omran Al Awihi, a 15-year-old Syrian teen who arrived in Ireland in March 2017 from Greece, with the EU relocation scheme. "I knew Ireland was in the middle of the sea," he said, although he never imagined he would be sailing on it. He said the course has made him want to become a sailor. 

Diarmaid Geever, a 16-year-old Irish teen, said that just months ago, "a lot of people were suspicious of the Syrians at first". He said now they have a better understanding."Generally speaking, people are very supportive and see that the Syrians are exactly the same as ourselves. If you put us all in a small confined space, with all our different personalities, you find that we all get on. They like music and games just like us. There are differences, but far fewer than some people think". (Some young men from the Safe Haven Ireland project. Credit: Safe Haven Ireland)
 

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