Van de 6 miljard kinderen die op de vlucht zijn, heeft amper de helft toegang tot onderwijs. Verplicht onderwijs voor vluchtelingen is dus cruciaal voor de toekomst van Europa.

Lees mijn rapport en mijn tussenkomst hier:

Ladies and gentlemen,

I guess all of you remember the jungle in Calais, the refugee camp in the north of France, close to the border with Belgium. When it was shut down and cleared, many refugees had to flee again. Among them where families with minor children, but also unaccompanied minors. While they were residing in the camp, we knew they could follow classes. But outside of the camp nobody knew whether they would have access to education or not.

I could not erase this shameful situation off my mind, so I decided to write a report on this topic, to investigate how we could ensure access to education for all refugee and migrant children. Because I wonder:

What happened to those children who reached our borders safe and sound?
What happened with them when they had to flee again, from the camp in Calais, to another camp in another neighbouring country?
Have these children started a real integration path, and do they get a chance to build up a new life?

Education is key for their future, and it is also key for the future of Europe. Providing quality education to refugee and migrant children today will serve to prepare the Europe of tomorrow.

Let’s not forget that only 6 out of 10 refugee children has access to primary education. This staggering figure is even worse for secondary education, where only 2 out of 10 refugee adolescents attented secondary school. Not to mention the 1% that has a chance to go to university.

There are 6.4 million primary and secondary school-age refugees around the world, and more than half of them (an estimated 3.5 million) has no school to go to. If we are serious about this, and we really want to prevent this generation from becoming a lost generation, much more can be done.

Dear colleagues,

A school should be a safe heaven where children can learn. Police or armed forces should not be seen there, as agreed in the Safe Schools Declaration Adopted in May 2015 in Oslo.

If you attended the award ceremony of the Museum Prize Tuesday evening, you have probably heard the founder of the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo talk. He is a war child himself, and he made a very moving speech saying that he saw children in the streets and in some places (like Ukraine) children have to go past police patrols to get to school, and “this is not where children should be sleeping, and not how children should be going to school”.

Therefore, the aim of this report is to encourage authorities to invest in education, to empower migrant children, to effectively reach the international standards* we have agreed upon, which are very clear: education should be accessible, available, acceptable and adaptable; and primary education is “compulsory*” and “available free to all”.

However, reality shows us that many Member States lack behind. There is a big gap between what States do at the national level, and what they have agreed to through international legislation. That is why my report highlights the gap between States’ undertakings under domestic and international legislation on primary and secondary education and its actual delivery to migrant and refugee children. Examples from Council of Europe member States illustrate good practices and many areas for improvement.

Hence, I wrote this report as a kind of “checklist” of conditions for ensuring migrant children’s education.

This checklist entails the following:

national objectives for school attendance of migrant and refugee children;
preschool and primary education free of charge for refugee children, even when it is organized privately;
equal treatment regardless of their (refugee) status (like in Sweden, but not in the Netherlands or Germany);
access to mainstream education in local classes;
adequate transport and accompaniment to children accommodated in centres and camps;

correct information for parents and children, about their obligation or possibility to go to primary school;

psycho-social assistance is provided in order to diagnose and address cases of trauma, as well as specific teacher training to recognise early signs of distress linked to refugee children’s experiences;

effective “firewalls” between the information systems of schools and immigration authorities to protect data on the status of migrants in irregular situations, in order to avoid its misuse to deny or complicate access to education for migrant children;
second language acquisition for all students, at regular schools;
Language learning is an important part of integration and a precondition for the advancement of other learning abilities.
Additional language courses should be made available free of charge to children (and parents) where needed.
Where possible, access to mother-tongue educational resources should be made available.
The Assembly also calls on all Council of Europe member States to encourage financially and structurally further and higher education for migrants, making use of tools such as the Council of Europe Language Support Toolkit for Adult Refugees and supporting projects such as the Council of Europe’s European Qualifications Passport for Refugees piloted by Greece in 2017.
gender-sensitive education should be in place and teachers trained in how to manage culturally sensitive situations linked to gender, to recognise gender-specific issues and to reject and avoid propagating stereotypes. These skills should be taught as a general rule, but the Assembly points out that they are all the more important when the cultures, habits and beliefs of migrants and refugees differ from those of the majority in the host country. Accepting difference and inciting curiosity about other cultures and indeed one’s own culture and history begins in the classroom.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The most important recommendation of this report is probably the call for long-term investments. Education for people fleeing hardship is mostly financed from emergency funds, or it depends on project-based funding, which does not encourage long-term investment in sustainable policies.

Long-term investments are needed. Especially in those countries where refugee camps that have become cities. Refugees spend an average of 20 years in exile (according to figures of UNHCR), so this makes it very clear that project-based funding is not enough.

It has to become clear that many refugees cannot and will not go back to their home country. They will stay in the host countries, to build up a new life. So it is important to ensure basic rights and resources for oneself and one’s family. Education is one of those necessities, as an enabling factor for the fulfilment of human potential, a precondition for individual well-being and a tool for life in general.

More concretely, member States can integrate education for migrant and refugee children and specialised teacher training into the budget of the Ministry for Education rather than into that of humanitarian and development assistance.

To sum up, the Assembly strongly urges member States to work actively towards fulfilment of the objectives set out in my report. Non-respect of the legal undertakings guaranteed by the implementation of these concrete measures constitutes a flagrant violation of children’s rights.

Education is a powerful tool for integration of migrants and refugees and for the empowerment of young people destabilised by situations for which they are not responsible.

As I said, education is key for their future, and it is also key for the future of Europe. Providing quality education to refugee and migrant children today will serve to prepare the Europe of tomorrow.