IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF Urge European States to Boost Education for Refugee and Migrant Children
Athens, 11 September 2019
BRUSSELS/GENEVA - Three UN agencies are calling on European States to increase resources and practical support for their school systems to ensure all refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children can access and stay in quality education.
In a briefing paper published today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and IOM, the International Organization for Migration, detail the obstacles children and adolescents born outside Europe face when trying to access education in Europe.
Currently, the number of children and adolescents born outside Europe (including recently arrived refugee and migrant children) who leave school early is nearly twice as high compared to native-born children. These children also have lower learning outcomes when they are not given adequate support. For example, around 3 in 4 native-born students attain proficiency in science, reading and math but only 3 in 5 students with a migrant background do.
Among the key challenges highlighted in the report are:
- Insufficient financial resources
- Not enough school spaces or teachers trained to work with refugee and migrant children
- Language barriers
- A lack of psychosocial support and limited catch-up classes. The latter are vital for children who have missed extended periods of schooling or have come from different education systems.
Children of pre-primary age (3 to 5 years old) and upper secondary age (15 years and older) are particularly vulnerable to being out of school, as they are often beyond the scope of national legislation on compulsory education.
To help States tackle these challenges and address key data gaps, the paper gives examples of good and promising practices in education across Europe and makes a series of recommendations.
Key findings of the report about Greece highlight a 44% increase in the number of refugee and migrant children enrolled in Greek schools between June and December 2018, thanks to the efforts of the Hellenic Ministry of Education to ensure access to formal education including through the establishment of reception classes. By the end of 2018 the total number of enrolled children reached 11,500, which further increased to 12,867 by the end of the school year 2018/2019 based on the statistics provided by the Ministry of Education. Enhancing school enrolment through coordination of all actors was one of the promising practices highlighted from Greece. To this end, the Hellenic Ministry of Education efforts are supported by a national inter-agency Education Working Group, which brings together actors combining efforts to assist refugee and migrant families during the school enrollment process and beyond. Despite the progress, there is still a significant gap in the education of children who spend extended periods of time in reception centers on the Greek islands, with the majority of them remaining out of school compared to their peers on the mainland.
“For refugee children, education is not only vital for their own futures but for the communities in which they live. Quality education boosts life chances, facilitates integration, and is a win-win for the student and society. Investing in education for all is one of the best investments a government can make,” said Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Director of the Bureau for Europe.
The brief urges States to strengthen the links between schools and other critical public services, such as health and child protection to ensure that barriers to enrolment and factors contributing to early leaving are addressed. The paper also recommends increasing access to early childhood education services and promoting the integration of young people into upper secondary education and training programmes.
“With political will and additional investments, Governments across Europe can build inclusive public-school systems, ensuring all children, regardless of their migration status have their right to an education protected, while building inclusive and successful communities,” said Ms. Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe.
The three agencies also call on States to increase efforts and make further investments at both national and regional level to collect quality standardized and harmonized data on refugee, asylum-seeking and migrant children in education, to inform policy development and allocation of resources.
“Eliminating gaps in refugee and migrant children’s education is critical to their development and well-being and this can have a positive knock-on effect for society in general. Education also has the cohesive power to help refugee and migrant children and their families build links to the local communities and to contribute. Investing in inclusive and quality education will help us to meet our responsibility to ensure that no generation is left behind,” said Manfred Profazi, IOM Senior Regional Adviser for Europe and Central Asia.
Read the advocacy brief here.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance such as shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.
For more information about UNHCR, visit https://www.unhcr.org/about-us.html
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eca
As the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, IOM works closely with our partners to promote orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration that benefits individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit and destination.
For more information about IOM, visit www.iom.int
For more information on this topic, please contact:
UNHCR: Stella Nanou, Assistant Comm/Public Information Officer, +306944586037, [email protected]
UNICEF: Olga Siokou – Siova, Communication Specialist, +306973227159, [email protected]
IOM: Christine Nikolaidou, Public Information Officer, +302109919040, [email protected]