Migration and Education – Humanity and Rights or Fences and Hostility?

Migration and Education – Humanity and Rights or Fences and Hostility?

On 15 October, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) concluded their 2-year long project ‘Education Sectoral Social Partners in Education Promoting the Effective Integration of Migrants and Refugees in Education’. The event was marked by a public hearing at the European Parliament, where SOLIDAR’s Secretary General, Conny Reuter, was invited to participate in a debate exploring how civil society organisations and other stakeholders can collaborate with social partners to achieve meaningful inclusion of migrants and refugees in education.

The debate opened with one of the main project outcomes, a documentary titled ‘Education without borders’, which gave voice to migrant children struggling with the barriers preventing them from enjoying their right to quality education. The documentary focuses on the three case study countries analysed during the project, Serbia, Belgium and Spain, showing the experiences of teachers and children who, in spite of scarce resources and insufficient support from policymakers, radiate passion and willingness to make the most out of their educational experience. Education is these learners’ priority and it is the first step to ensure that they will enjoy their full rights and lead a fruitful life. However, their wants and needs are frustrated by exclusionary rhetoric perpetrated by far-right nationalists who would want to build fences rather than to expand the table and give a seat to migrants as well, as ETUCE President, Christine Blower, eloquently put it.

European education social partners, promoting quality and equity in education, urged the hearing to discuss avenues for building synergies among all actors involved in ensuring that the learners’ needs are met and that all preconditions to reap the benefits of education are met. Given this EuroChild, the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), Red Cross EU and COFACE Families Europe joined SOLIDAR in discussing how stakeholders’ work on migration and education can come together and how they can overcome working in silos. The discussion revolved around the need to put an end to the defective logic of austerity, which only reinforces the vicious cycle of excluding people from society. Investment in schools, in learners, in services that these learners require, such as healthcare, guidance, language support, is needed and the EU institutions must take heed of this. Social investment is the only way in which diversity will be respected, and the most at-risk learners, the migrants and refugees, can become active participants in European society.

Demanding more action by EU institutions, Conny Reuter, highlighted the preconditions that migrant learners need in order to be effectively integrated in education and in society:

  • Recognition and validation of skills
  • Empowering migrants
  • Democratic Rule of Law
  • Putting an end to the criminalisation of solidarity
  • Common regulations across EU Member States

SOLIDAR welcomes the possibility of working with social partners and other actors on this urgent topic, as many migrant learners are stuck in a state of limbo, losing precious years of their life, while ensnared in years-long administrative procedures or being failed by an underfunded education system.