Right to education for unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children in the EU – A closer look at the ECRE Policy Note on the Right to Education for Asylum Seekers

Access to education is addressed in article 14 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights Of the European Union. According to article 14, everyone has the right to education and to have access to vocational and continuing training. Within the  EU legal framework, the right to access education for asylum seekers and unaccompanied and separated minors is also recognized under the Article 14 of the Reception Conditions Directive, which mandates minors asylum applicants must access education within three months.  


Focusing on the right to education of asylum seekers, ECRE has produced a Policy Note on “the right to education for asylum seekers in the EU”. According to the policy note, the lengthy asylum procedures  are negatively affecting the access to education due to delays in application processing. Furthermore, in many Member States minors asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors don’t have access to the schooling systems while they are in reception centers. The lack of information upon arrival is another issue that limits the educational opportunities of UASC.It is imperative that they receive transparent information about the various education pathways available to them. 


Moreover, newcomers tend to be placed in lower academic tracks, often because their previous studies are not considered as valid or not accurately considered. The report also calls upon MS to invest in preparatory classes and language. Funding preparatory classes is key for the successful inclusion of newcomers in mainstream education. 


Apart from compulsory education, it also underlines the importance of offering opportunities in  post-compulsory education, higher education and vocational training for UASC. In many cases, these educational pathways are not prioritized because they are not part of compulsory education. However, regardless of their legal status, the access to all educational levels should be guaranteed for all newcomers. When it comes to non-compulsory education, some of the challenges UASC face are related to the recognition of diplomas, language requirements, residence permit and the lack of financial aid from the governments . 


Education is a basic human right, and therefore the ECRE Note emphasizes the obligation of Member States in ensuring the access to education to asylum seekers. The policy note concludes with a series of recommendations for Member states and the European Commision. You can read all the recommendations here

Advocating for inclusive and high quality education for UASC is one of SIRIUS priorities. As part of our various activities in this area, we are currently participating in the SUN project, which focuses on the use of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as an effective legal instrument to promote and protect the rights of unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children (UASCs) on the EU territory. Find more information about the project here.

Why fund migrant and refugee education? Lifelong Learning Week 2022


On Friday 2nd December SIRIUS celebrated the Lifelong Learning week on “Investment in Education and Training: A Public Good for All” by holding a workshop on funding of migrant education. We opened with a panel moderated by SIRIUS director Mialy Dermish with speakers Noemi Casone (ENABEL Project Officer on Human Mobility Issues) and Paola Alvarez (OM Senior Regional Thematic Specialist Labour Mobility and Social Inclusion).

Both Paola and Noemie spoke about international legal frameworks such as the Global Compact on Migration and the UN Decleration of Human Rights that govern how we engage with the right to education for migrant and refugee students arriving in Europe. Both participants recognized the challenge of national systems to really produce the type of inclusive and quality education that are needed, not only to ensure that migrants rights are fulfilled , but also that migrants are viewed as positive contributions to our European society that they are.

Noemie pointed out many of the strong practices in Uganda, where ENABEL funds refugee education and we discussed how we do not learn from developing country systems that have hosted refugees for a long time despite their knowledge and successful measures implemented. A debate and questions rose around the value of formal and informal systems and why migrant students may need informal or non formal systems to help them bridge into more formal systems, should we view this as segregation or just a band-aid while we are reforming the more formal system. Paola also recognized that national systems are underfunded and struggling even without new arrivals but we also thought of non-funding solutions that allow for more autonomy in national systems, that  could help teachers and directors to respond to the different dynamics.

The panel was followed by a workshop where participants looked at the quality of successful funding campaigns in the past and brain-stormed ways that we could bring more money into the area of migrant education in Europe. Legitimacy of campaign actors, finding a way to connect emotionally with audiences and bringing a sense of urgency were highlighted as necessary for campaigns to be successful.

All in all the event was successful and it was a pleasure for SIRIUS to host this event as part of the LLL week.



SIRIUS is at European Conference on Educational Research 23-25 August!

23-25 August, held by the European Educational Research Association, ECER will host a session on Inclusive Education. Dr. Nicola Horsley will be presenting some fresh research about digital resilience of migrant and refugee students: ‘Lessons from the Lockdown Lab: How can Migrant Families’ Views of Inclusive Education Help Tackle Marginalisation in the Digital Classroom? paper by a fully SIRIUS team of Horsley, Nicola (1); Kakos, Michalis (2); Koehler, Claudia (3); Tudjman, Tom (4); Kooijman, Kristel (5); Affiliations: 1: Leeds Beckett University; 2: Leeds Beckett University; 3: Farafina Institute; 4: Risbo, Erasmus University Rotterdam; 5: Universiteit Utrecht

This paper formalises the elements gathered in 2021 on the digital resilience of families, teachers and students working in a migrant and refugee context across 3 countries Germany, Netherlands and the UK. In addition, it follows up on the excellent webinar presented by these researchers to an international audience, which can be found here.

Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Minors, NGO cooperation, Teaching Materials National Roundtable of Bulgaria 2019

The National Round Table (NRT) 2019 program was structured around 4+1 topics related to educational integration of refugee children. The 4 main topics were chosen by the participants in the NRT 2018 in Sofia as the most relevant nationally. To take advantage of the pan-European nature of the SIRIUS Network and its spin-off projects, a special focus was put on sharing research findings and best practices from other EU countries to allow Bulgarian stakeholders to get inspired to try new approaches or methods. In addition, the organizers offered 1 extra topic on funding opportunities where 3 panelists from a private company, a community foundation and an umbrella donors’ organization shared their expertise for successful fundraising along with information on open calls for proposals. The four main topics were: Unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee minors of school-age The situation of unaccompanied minors in Bulgaria was thoroughly discussed at the NRT 2018 as one of the most challenging topics, especially in the context of Bulgaria being a “transit country” and thus often being unattractive to young refugees. This, together with the limited capacities of their guardians (social workers from the State Agency for Refugees) and the lack of a comprehensive national coordination mechanism, leaves this particularly vulnerable group with insufficient support. Therefore, the need identified last year was to collect good practices from other European countries. Several of them were presented (for example a student-centered job-placement approach from a Flemish school in Belgium). At national level, a special focus was put on a new promising project realized by Know How Center for Alternative Care for Children, New Bulgarian University in a partnership with State Agency for Refugees. “To fulfil (im)possible dreams” uses a student-centered approach and draws a “map” of the desired future and provides mentoring to young unaccompanied refugees. Cooperation between schools and NGOs The cooperation between schools and NGOs in Bulgaria often happens spontaneously and based on short-term projects. A more structured approach would ensure that the gaps in refugees’ education are filled in a timely and well-planned manner. To feed the discussion with best practices from the EU, the SIRIUS Watch 2018 “Role of non-formal education in migrant children inclusion: links with schools” was presented with a focus on practices which could be implemented in Bulgaria. The panel continued with input from a school principal from the city of Harmanli, where the biggest refugee reception center in Bulgaria is located. She discussed the accessibility of schools, the needs of schools and children and opportunities for cooperation. Materials in support of teachers for working with refugee students Since the Bulgarian educational system has been facing a higher number of refugee students only in recent years, the capacity of teachers and the amount of materials they can use in the classroom is not very high. In this panel several organizations presented new methodologies they have created to support teachers working with refugee students Such materials are not widely distributed and only a limited number of teachers is being trained how to use them. However, the policy reform opportunity would be to train more current and future teachers in various forms – at university level, summer schools, lifelong learning training programs, etc. Enhancing the motivation of parents of refugee children Many studies show the importance of parent involvement in the educational process of their children. A comprehensive coordination mechanism between various stakeholders would secure a better flow of information and parental engagement. Since this is a very difficult area in Bulgaria, especially in the context of its ‘transit country’ profile, experience from other European countries was shared through a presentation of the ALFIRK report: Good practices for migrant parent involvement in education. The State Agency for Refugees also presented the best practices their social workers use in order to motivate parents.


Refugee, Migrant Education and Social Policies in Greece: Finding Synergies and Sustainable Policies – National Roundtable of Greece 2019

On 7th July 2019, a new government has been elected in Greece, for the forthcoming four years. The new Minister of Education as well as the new vice Minister of Migration Policy will be interviewed in order to select data about the new forthcoming education policies. Amongst the first announced structural changes are the transfer of the Autonomous Department of Coordination of Refugee Education, as well as of other Departments, at the General Secretariat of Primary, Secondary and Special Education, according to the Presidential Decree No 84 (17th July 2019). Specifically, the Autonomous Department for the Coordination of Refugee Education had been established as an autonomous body within the Ministry of Education since August 2018. Now, its competences, jurisdictions responsibilities and personnel vacancies are transferred to the General Secretariat of Primary, Secondary and Special Education. Greece, responding to the mass increase of refugees, asylum seekers and newly arrived migrants right after the refugee crisis of 2015, altered the regulations and guidelines on school placement and assessment of their prior educational experiences so as to protect and safeguard children’s universal right to education (Φ.6 / 1063/82763 / Δ1 / 23-05-2016 / Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs). They have published the following decisions and regulations which are mandatory, while leaving minimum to no limits on schools’ autonomy over the assessment process. There is specific provision for the educational needs of refugee and asylum seekers’ children who live in RICs (Reception and Identification Centres) and RHCs (Reception and Hospitality Centres). The relevant educational policies are referred at the Common Ministerial Decree 139654/ΓΔ4 regarding the establishment and functioning of DYEP (Education Reception Structures for Refugees), as noted in the government gazette ΦΕΚ2985/Β΄/30-8- 2017. These procedures are common at national level and mandatory. There is no school autonomy, as these are central education policies. Guidelines at national level are provided before the beginning of each school year (Annual Ministry of Education circulars about pupil registration at Kindergarten and Primary Schools). Pupils with no prior education experience in the Greek state education system are normally placed at DYEP structures, unless such structures do not exist in their immediate location. In that case, pupils can register at a mainstream morning Greek State School and, if a sufficient number of newly arrived migrant students request it, the school can host a Reception Class for these students. However, the formation of a Reception Class requires the approval of the Teacher Assembly of the school.


Refugee Education in Germany, 2018

The ‘Multi‐country Partnership to Enhance the Education of Refugee and Asylum‐seeking Youth in Europe ‐ PERAE’ was initiated by the SIRIUS Network – Policy Network on Migrant Education in 2016 with the support of the Mercator Foundation

Refugee Education in Greece, 2018

The ‘Multi‐country Partnership to Enhance the Education of Refugee and Asylum‐seeking Youth in Europe ‐ PERAE’ was initiated by the SIRIUS Network – Policy Network on Migrant Education in 2016 with the support of the Mercator Foundation

Refugee Education in the UK, 2018

The ‘Multi‐country Partnership to Enhance the Education of Refugee and Asylum‐seeking Youth in Europe ‐ PERAE’ was initiated by the SIRIUS Network – Policy Network on Migrant Education in 2016 with the support of the Mercator Foundation