[European Union] UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM urge European States to Boost Education for Refugee and Migrant Children

11 Sep 2019

The UN Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the International Organization for Migration warn European states to increase the resources and practical support within their school systems that would guarantee that all refugee, asylum-seeking, and migrant children have access to a quality education.

Compared to native-born children, twice as many pupils with a migration background drop out of school. The learning outcomes for migrant children are also worrying; 3 out of 5 students attain proficiency in reading and math, which is far below the figures for native-born students.

The main challenges are:

  • Lack of financial resources
  • Not enough space in schools
  • Lack of teacher training in dealing with refugee and migrant children
  • Language barriers
  • Inadequate psycho-social support, which is important for children coming from different educational systems, or for children who were out of an educational environment for some time

The most vulnerable groups of children are those aged 3 to 5 and those over the age of 15, as national legislation does not focus on them, or they are beyond the age of compulsory education.

The study suggests improving the links between schools and other critical public services, such as child protection, which would help to address the issue of early dropouts. Access to early childhood education services should be extended, and the integration of young people into education should be promoted. Furthermore, policy development and allocation of resources would be greatly advanced by better and standardized national and regional data collection on refugee, asylum-seeking, and migrant children.

‘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.

‘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.

‘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.


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