No ‘back to school’ for ‘lost generation’ of refugee children in Mideast: Europe must respond

SIRIUS Statement on Urgent Response for the Education of Refugees

13 million children are being denied their right to an education because of the wars in the Mideast, according to the UN. In fact, 1 in 2 Syrian refugees are actually children (2.2 million). 1 in 4 schools in Syria have closed since the conflict and 52,000 teachers have left their posts. Half of Syria’s 2.2 million refugee children remained out of school in the 2013/14 school year, despite the continued efforts of UN agencies UNICEF and UNHCR. Children remain out of school because of breaks in their school career, lack of resources, lack of documents and the need to work for their family.For example in Turkey, while most school‐age children living in camps are attending school, attendance rates fall to around 1/4 for children in urban areas, where the vast majority of Syrian refugees live without full access to the education system or adequate support to learn Turkish.

War and displacement are creating a lost generation of children in the Mideast. Without the necessary education and psychosocial support, these children will lose the chance to recover in their academic and personal development. The long‐term impact of Syrian children never returning to school has been estimated at 5.4% of Syria’s GDP, or nearly 2 billion euros, according to Save the Children.The UN is calling on donor countries and individuals to fund the 556 million euros needed for education for Syrian children. Yet only 2% of international humanitarian aid is allocated to education.

Unfortunately, refugee children’s obstacles to an education are not confined to war‐torn countries and camps. Since refugees lack legal channels into Europe, families must undertake long and potentially deadly journeys before arriving in a country offering them a real chance for protection and integration. These children on the move usually receive no educational or psychosocial support along the way and limited support upon arrival in many reception centres and school systems in the EU, particularly in new destination countries. When parents choose to go alone and reunite later with their children, demanding requirements and procedures delay their arrival. The OECD concludes that family reunion should happen as soon as possible because its PISA study shows that every extra year spent waiting outside the country has a negative impact on immigrant children’s ability to catch up at school and learn the language.

As the European policy network on migrant education, SIRIUS calls on the EU and its Member States to respond to the specific education needs of refugee children and students in the EU and abroad. Their right to an education is guaranteed under international law, most notably the Geneva Convention, and under EU law through the ‘Common European Asylum System’. SIRIUS’ years of research have found that, apart from a few good practices in specific schools and areas, Europe’s teachers generally lack the training and support to properly serve immigrant pupils or teach about immigration and diversity. Refugee communities are also playing their part to improve the education of their and others’ children, as SIRIUS noted for example in Bulgaria and Hungary.

SIRIUS is recommending more concrete EU actions on refugee education, building on its 2014 comprehensive policy agenda and recommendations from stakeholders such as Europe’s teachers’ unions, and adult educators. The undersigning organisations, aware of huge challenge ahead of us to support these children, encourage the European bodies to:

  1. Create and monitor a long‐term policy on how to best use EU policies and funds to support the education of children and youngsters from refugee families in Europe
  2. Design this policy through an ‘ad hoc’ EU Committee on the education of children and youngsters from refugee families, including the relevant European and international institutions and European NGOs on migration or education
  3. Consult in this design with the European Parliament and with experts and civil society through a 1‐day European conference
  4. Substantially increase funds and set up specific budgets for the education of refugees outside the EU as a part of humanitarian aid and for the education of refugee children and youngsters as a part of asylum and integration support
  5. Increase the number of refugee children and students receiving protection‐sensitive scholarships to study in Europe, including through the EU’s Erasmus Mundus programme
  6. Evaluate the impact of reception and family reunion policies on the educational and psychosocial development of children and then propose solutions at EU level
  7. Remove obstacles and introduce support programmes for refugee teachers and professors to (re)qualify and teach in Europe
  8. Identify and support best practices on the educational and psychosocial support to refugee children and youngsters
  9. Introduce a specific track on refugee education through lifelong learning and adult education, with the support of the European Association for Education of Adults
  10. Coordinate the implementation of these measures and budgets, identify specific contact persons for migrant and refugee education within Member States’ education ministries and the European Commission’s DG Education and Culture

This statement can be signed here.

The German version can be downloaded here.

[vc_toggle title=”Signatories – organisations” open=”false” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]

  • University of Linz
  • Freund statt Fremd
  • ComelSoft
  • Public Policy and Management Institute
  • Dutch National Centre for Mixed Schools
  • Bamberg resident
  • ADOC
  • Leiden Univerity
  • Erasnus University Rotterdam
  • Freund statt fremd e. V.
  • Erasmus University
  • Innovative Community Centres Association
  • Harmanli Refugee Camp Play School
  • Freund statt freund e.V.
  • Multi Kulti Collective
  • Forum for Freedom in Education
  • ESRI
  • University Leiden
  • European Association for the Education of Adults
  • Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • University of Western Macedonia
  • FIBB
  • erasmus university
  • Refugee Project
  • Society for Organisational Learning – Bulgaria
  • Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions – OBESSU
  • Migration Policy Group
  • Global Development Institute, Latvia
  • The National Centre for Multicutural Education (NAFO)
  • Leiden University, faculty of social sciences
  • University of California Berkeley
  • Universiteit Leiden
  • Psychologenpraktijk
  • University of Leiden
  • Freund statt fremd e.V.
  • University of Bremen
  • european forum for migration studies (efms) at the University of Bamberg
  • PPMI Group, UAB
  • Da Vinci College
  • Lifelong Learning Platform/EUROCLIO
  • Leiden University, The Netherlands
  • UCL Institute of Education, University College London
  • Institute of Edication Sciences, University of Pécs
  • Global Vision Circle
  • PPMI
  • International Association for Intercultural Education
  • european forum for migration studies (efms)
  • European Youth Forum
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Leiden University
  • ENAR – European Network Against Racism aisbl
  • NGO Asfiion NIKE
  • Harmanli refugee camp play school, bulgaria
  • Network of Education Policy Centers
  • Nagore
  • ding
  • Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Lithuania
  • SAPI
  • AEGEE-Europe / European Students’ Forum
  • On my own behalf
  • Risbo
  • CIIE – Centro de Investigaçºao e Intervenção Educativas, Universidade do Porto, Portugal


[vc_toggle title=”Signatories – individuals” open=”false” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]

  • George Petrov
  • Gertraut Koehler
  • Raphed Quandt
  • Desislava ZLataova
  • David Garrahy
  • Stefan Huber
  • Marleen Danel
  • Board
  • Marieke Meeuwisse
  • Eliza Samaras
  • Evelien Platje
  • Sabine Severiens
  • Katharina Pittner
  • Julia Grewe
  • Lachezar Afrikanov
  • Rianne Kok
  • Knibbe
  • I. Wijngaarde
  • Aleksandra Kluczka
  • Gillian clasby
  • Andrea Oosterwijk
  • Hannah van Dijk
  • Joke van der Leeuw-Roord
  • Yvette Dijkxhoorn
  • Rianne Feijt MSc
  • Roxette van den Bosch
  • M. Prevoo
  • Georg Bachmann
  • MJ Bakermans-Kranenburg
  • Marinus van IJzendoorn
  • Brigitte Finke
  • Doreen Arnoldus
  • Nikita Schoemaker
  • Eli Pijaca Plavšić
  • Dr Michalis Kakos
  • Bistra Ivanova
  • Nadezhda Hristova
  • R. Cartiere
  • Ulrike Tontsch
  • Alan Kalil
  • Daniel Georgiev
  • Siemen
  • Lois Schenk
  • Thomas Huddleston
  • Petar Petrov
  • Dita Vogel
  • Nektaria Palaiologou
  • Lana Jurko
  • Andrea Spruijt
  • Rob Kickert
  • Barbara Herzog-Punzenberger
  • Diana Dimova
  • Haroldas Brozaitis
  • Doris Lüken-Klaßen
  • Raffaella d’Apolito
  • Alfred Walter
  • Manfred Guenther
  • Keith Welch
  • Khadija
  • Nicoletta Charalambidou, Vice-Chair
  • Toin Duijx
  • Daniel Mayerhoffer
  • Eke Krijnen
  • Dr. Merike Darmody
  • Liesma Ose
  • Lisanne Marijs
  • Claudia Koehler
  • Dr. M.J. van Dijken
  • M.C. Dekker
  • dr. Anneke JG Vinke
  • Sadie Clasby
  • Gabriela Koppenol-Gonzalez
  • Helena C. Araújo (Director)
  • Rimantas Dumčius
  • Lonneke de Meijer
  • Hilke Kaspar
  • Leslie Bash
  • Renata Weber
  • Tobias Zenk
  • Lenneke Alink
  • Hanne
  • Renee Dijkhuis
  • Sigrun Aamodt
  • Adi Yordanova
  • Sheila van Berkel
  • Gisela Hirschmann-Raithel
  • Josefine Karlsson
  • M.S. van Vliet
  • Regina Ebner
  • Linda Haunschild
  • Sahetapy
  • Abdel Amine
  • Linda van Leijenhorst
  • Else de Vries
  • Patrick Nitzsche
  • Ferenc Arató
  • Tomislav Tudjman
  • Sabrina Alhanachi
  • Hanna Siarova
  • Guido Walraven
  • Alexander Schulz
  • Zlatina Toleva
  • Ona Čepulėnienė



National Meeting in Bulgaria: “Challenges in the field of education for migrants and refugees in Bulgaria”

The Bulgarian National meeting organized by Multi Kulti Collective took place on 11 November 2014 in the EU House in Sofia. “Challenges in the field of education for migrants and refugees in Bulgaria” focused on access to education and the lack of targeting integration measures for migrant and refugee pupils/students. Being an external border of the EU Bulgaria accepted more than 12.000 asylum seekers in the last 1,5 years. Most of them were granted international protection and that’s why the National meeting had a special focus on refugees as well.All the main stakeholders such as Ministry of Education, Regional Inspectorate of Education, State Agency for Child Protection, State Agency for Refugees, representatives of schools and universities with high concentration of migrants/refugee pupils/students, international and local NGO’s working on integration and education of migrants/refugees, migrant/refugee NGO’s, researchers participated in the event.
Multi Kulti Collective is a new member of SIRIUS (2014) and that’s why the first National Meeting was a good opportunity to present the network in more details. The first panel focused on the the difficulties related to the integration of migrants/refugees in the educational system in Bulgaria and presenting European good practices in the field of integration of refugees and migrants in the educational system. The second one consisted of group work led by facilitators on the problems in the field of pre-primary and primary/secondary/higher education for migrants and refugees in Bulgaria. The event finished with mutual understanding for developing an action plan for next steps at national level.

2nd Baltic Inter-Ministerial Round Table: “Inclusive education policy for children of returning nationals and nationals living abroad”

The 2nd Baltic Inter-Ministerial Round Table was hosted by Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science and Vilnius Lithuanian House in Vilnius, took place on the 3-4 November 2014. The topic of the round table was the Inclusive education policy for children of returning nationals and nationals living abroad.

The round table was one of the activities organised within the SIRIUS Network (European Policy network for education of children with minority and migrant background) by Hanna Siarova (PPMI), who also act as Sirius national coordinator for Lithuania. The round table was organised as a follow-up to the 1st Inter-Ministerial Round table in Riga where participants identified specific policy topics on which they could focus further.

The aim of Vilnius round table was to bring together different policy makers dealing with integration of returnee pupils in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania:

  • To learn and exchange knowledge on approaches towards integration of returning nationals into education in the Baltic States and to support learning of Baltic nationals living abroad. Participants of the round table were able to learn more about Lithuanian approach towards integration of returnee pupils into Lithuanian schools and support of Lithuanian citizens who live outside Lithuania outlined in the state strategy ‘Global Lithuania’. The participants also met practitioners, policy makers and coordinators of specific projects working with integration of returnees and discover good practice initiatives within Lithuanian approach, as well as assess challenges of the current policy.
  • To identify strengths of national strategies and to assess transferability of good practice measures in the neighbouring Baltic countries. Participants provided feedback and reflections on the approaches/measures learnt based on Lithuanian example, as well as contributions of other Baltic countries and shared ideas on their possible improvements and transferability to Baltic countries context.
  • To elaborate concrete steps on implementation of certain measures/policies on education of returnees in Baltic countries.

The round table discussion was also an important contribution to the finalisation of policy paper on education of children with a migrant background in the Baltic States which was released in the second half of November this year (2014).

Minutes of the meeting



The borders exist only in our heads