(Image: DCUSU)

DCU Students Union’s “Save our Shepherd” (SOS) protest was held on Friday 19th October outside the Department of Justice and Equality to oppose the Department’s deportation order issued to second year DCU student Shepherd Machaya.

The Union organised buses that delivered students to the Department, aiming to attract the attention of the Minister of Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, in the hope that the order could be revoked before Sunday the 21st of October.

Machaya is a thirty year-old Zimbabwean refugee that has resided in Ireland for nine years. He is a Management of Information Technology and Information Systems student that joined DCU through its university of sanctuary scheme. The programme allows for fifteen academic scholarships to be provided for applicants living in Direct Provision. Machaya is currently living in Direct Provision in Co. Laois. Asylum seekers in Ireland are required to pay non-EU fees, making higher education unattainable to the majority.

DCUSU launched a petition to Flanagan calling for the deportation to be revoked, the link to which can be found on their Facebook page. Videos of Machaya detailing his experience and his appreciation of the campaign have been uploaded to the Union’s Social Media accounts.

The union also wrote an open letter to Flanagan with the aim of attracting his attention which was also published on their social media.

In the letter, Machaya is described as “an individual who embodies everything that … Irish citizens strive to be” as he is “resilient, diligent and brave” and “has shown that he is here to better himself and be part of [Irish] society.” The Union states that “before coming to Ireland, Shepherd was tortured by political groups in Zimbabwe, as he refused to join them.”

DCUSU president Vito Moloney Burke told RTÉ News that Machaya’s best friend was also killed by the same people. The Union’s letter also states that “if [Machaya] was to return to Zimbabwe, he would be in imminent danger, with the potential of facing more torture from political groups that he came here to escape, following the death of his best friend at the hands of same.” They have pointed out that “despite his challenging circumstances in Direct Provision, [Machaya] has overcome great odds to advance academically”. The SU believes that “such values and examples of determination and hard work should not be deported from our country, but cherished” and that “it is evident that Shepherd’s safety cannot be guaranteed in Zimbabwe, and that all he has done in Ireland to improve himself and make himself a part of his community in Portlaoise and in DCU should not be put to waste”. DCUSU concluded their statement by urging Flanagan to “to take executive action on this case and revoke Shepherd’s deportation order for this Sunday, October 21st.”

The SU’s efforts garnered the support of the Irish Refugee Council and the Union of Students in Ireland.

The protest also attracted substantial attention and can be followed on social media via the #saveourshepherd and #sos. DCU students have been posting videos to express their support for the campaign using the hashtag on social media.