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UNHCR issues educational toolkit on asylum and migration in Europe

News Stories, 26 March 2009

Lively Event: Participants at the launch of the innovative educational toolkit in Brussels.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 26 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and its partner, the International Organization for Migration, on Thursday launched an innovative educational toolkit designed to inform young people about the main migration and asylum issues in the European Union (EU).

The "Not Just Numbers" toolkit, developed by the two agencies and supported by the European Commission (EC), was unveiled at a lively event in Brussels attended by young people. It will be rolled out in other European countries in the coming weeks.

"We hope the toolkit will encourage informed discussion and debate among young people,'' said Judith Kumin, director of UNHCR's European Union Liaison Office. "The kit provides a resource for teachers and other educators to help them respond to the issues and questions they often face in the classroom."

Aimed at 12-18-year-olds in Europe, the kit will contribute to the efforts of UNHCR, the IOM and the EC to promote public understanding of the situation of asylum seekers and migrants and to combat discrimination and prejudice.

Many young people in Europe have concerns about immigration and asylum that are based on misperception and misinformation the toolkit aims to counter this. UNHCR and IOM believe education is the key to forging a healthy relationship between host communities and immigrants.

Seventeen-year-old Yacine, a Belgian of Congolese and Moroccan origin, told participants at the launch that he often received strange reactions from children at school and people in the street because of the colour of his skin. "These reactions, which range from fear to distrust or violence, make me sad because they often they come from ignorance and incomprehension."

By means of short films and a simple teacher's manual, the toolkit provides lesson plans, learning activities and other educational resources that can be used inside and outside the classroom. The kit is currently available in English, but there will soon be versions in 20 European languages on the UNHCR and IOM websites.

The toolkit was welcomed by IOM's Brussels-based representative. "While migration to the EU is often portrayed in terms of anonymous statistics, the context and causes of migration are diverse and individual," Bernd Hemingway said. "Young people often lack the wider knowledge and the tools they need to be able to analyze and develop informed views on migration and asylum," he added.

Migration and asylum are at the top of the EU policy agenda. The reasons for migration to Europe are increasingly diversified, and so are the categories of migrants, with refugees and asylum seekers accounting for a small portion.

But public opinion in some European countries often calls for more restrictive policies and measures, without distinguishing between refugees and other categories of migrants.

Not Just Numbers, a new educational toolkit, helps youth across Europe to gain a better understanding into asylum and migration in Europe

Racism, xenophobia and discrimination exist in all EU member states and have an impact on refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants, who are often unfairly associated with crime and other anti-social behaviour. The situation is being exacerbated by the current economic crisis.

Against this backdrop, there is an urgent need for reliable and accessible information on migration and asylum in the EU. Critical issues such as the causes of refugee flight and economic migration, human trafficking, the particular situation of migrant and refugee children, the human rights dimension, and many other issues need to be addressed.

By Vanessa Saenen in Brussels, Belgium




UNHCR country pages


Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes.

DAFI Scholarships

The German-funded Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative provides scholarships for refugees to study in higher education institutes in many countries.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to ServePlay video

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to Serve

War forced Lim Bol Thong to flee South Sudan, putting his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold. As a refugee in the Kule camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, he has found another way to serve. Just 21 years old, Lim started teaching chemistry at the school's primary school and last year was promoted to Vice Principal.
South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
From refugee 'Lost Boy' to state education ministerPlay video

From refugee 'Lost Boy' to state education minister

The subject of the best-selling book What is the What, Valentino Achak Deng's journey has taken him from Sudanese 'Lost Boy' to education minister in his home state in South Sudan. He talks here about the causes of displacement, the risks of politicizing refugee resettlement, and the opportunities that come with staying positive.