A New Home At MUWCI: Malek’s Story (Syria/Palestine, ’18)

Malek Hinnwai is a bright 16 year old Palestinian refugee, born and raised in Syria, who has been offered a full scholarship to study at UWC Mahindra College in Pune. However, after fleeing to Turkey, Malek has been unable to apply for an Indian student visa with his Syrian Travel Document. The Indian Consulate in Istanbul is unfamiliar with such a refugee document and has put his application on hold while seeking clarification from the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, which then further referred his case to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Malek’s case has been pending for more than a month and though the school year started on 22nd August his visa application is yet to be accepted. He has been through many hardships as a refugee over the last 4 years and has shown great tenacity and courage in the face of challenging circumstances. Please help bring Malek to India for this incredible opportunity by raising awareness of the difficulties he and other refugees face everyday around freedom of movement and national status.

Malek’s Story

Malek was born and raised in Damascus, with a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother. His family has been internally displaced in Syria since 2012 when fighting erupted near Yarmouk Camp which forced them to flee their home.

Due to the intensely escalating conflict, his family attempted to escape to Turkey earlier this year. Malek was the only one able to make the border crossing to the meeting point while the rest of his family was arrested and sent back to Syria. Once in Turkey, while being shuttled between host families and hostels in Mersin and Istanbul, he came in contact with the UWC Committee for Palestinian Refugees. This volunteer non-profit organisation helps select refugee students of great promise to attend the 16 UWC (United World College) high schools around the world. Malek was enthused by the idea of UWC, the values it stands for and the opportunities it would provide him for a better life.

Executive Director, Jens Waltermann, explains the impetus behind UWC’s commitment to selecting students from areas of conflict.

UWC Mahindra College Scholarship

Malek’s courage, equanimity and quick intelligence were apparent in the Committee’s selections and he was competitively chosen to attend UWC Mahindra College for two years on an all inclusive scholarship. This will be a wonderful opportunity for him to receive a world-class education in a safe and stable environment, while also bringing his first-hand perspectives on the Syrian conflict to the rest of the student community. Since he is unable to return to his family for the foreseeable future, the college has offered to undertake guardianship for the entire two year duration of his programme in India, as it has in the past with students from other areas of conflict like Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. 

Malek’s Refugee Travel Document has proved to be a stumbling block in his Indian student visa application process

Malek’s Refugee Status & Visa Issues

When attempting to apply for a student visa at the Indian Consulate in Istanbul, Malek learned his Syrian Travel Document would not be acceptable in place of a passport, despite being the de-facto refugee document for the half million Palestinian refugees in Syria. The College formally appealed to both the Indian Consulate in Istanbul and the Indian Embassy in Ankara about the special circumstances around Malek’s refugee status. The college even cited a similar case from 2012 where the Indian Embassy in Lebanon issued a student visa for a UWC Mahindra College student who was a Palestinian refugee with a Lebanese Travel Document. Based on this precedent, the Istanbul Consul officer referred Malek’s case to to US(PV), CPV Division, MEA, Patiala House where the case has been pending since late July. Malek continues to be without his family in Istanbul, anxiously waiting to start his new journey at UWC Mahindra College.

How You Can Help

Please help us raise the profile of Malek’s case to Hon. Minister of External Affair, Smt. Sushma Swaraj and other senior members of her Ministry so Malek is allowed to receive a student visa and begin a new chapter of his life in India and at UWC. If you have any contacts in the media who would be interested in exploring his story, please do contact us on [email protected]

Update: Malek arrived in India and was welcomed on campus on Sep 24, marking the end of a long long struggle for his student visa. A big thank you to the UWC network and all those who reached out and helped with emailing, calling, tweeting and rooting for him! Watch this video of his emotional arrival in India to understand how momentous this opportunity is for him.


toto slot