World Refugee Day 2021

The 20th of June marks the World Refugee Day and for OBESSU and Sirius, this is an opportunity to raise awareness about the situation of refugees around the world but especially in Europe. 

Since the refugee crisis started in 2011, Europe has witnessed a surge of arrivals arriving in the EU through the Mediterranean and overland through Southeast Europe. Many of them are minors, who reached the borders of our continent unaccompanied and fled from their homes due to war, famine, exploitation, poverty, climate change and other life-threatening circumstances. 

Just in 2019, 13 800 asylum seekers applying for international protection in the 27 Member States of the European Union (EU) were considered to be unaccompanied minors, and in the peak of the migratory crisis, in 2015/2016, 170.000 unaccompanied children did; one out of ten children applying for asylum is unaccompanied. These minors have to face many barriers in order to be recognised and treated as such: many times they arrive in Europe without any kind of legal documents like passports or IDs. Legal and border authorities often do not trust the refugee’s declared age without proof, and Member States do not have in place the proper policies to support them and include them in their societies. 

According to the European Pillar of Social Rights, principle 1: ‘’‘’Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning in order to maintain and acquire skills that enable them to participate fully in society and manage successfully transitions in the labour market.’’

The European Commission launched in December 2020 a Toolkit for inclusive early childhood education and care . In this toolkit they highlight the different dimensions that need to be implemented in order to provide high quality and inclusion for all children. This toolkit makes reference as well to the European Pillar of Social Rights (mentioned above) and it’s based on the policy recommendations that have been adopted by the EU Member States. This means that the toolkit it’s made by measures already adopted by different Member States or to be adopted. 

If unaccompanied minors are denied the access to education and other basic rights, they will have to face multiple and challenging barriers to be able to keep moving forward.  This includes the young people who reach our shores in hope of a better life. Because no one leaves their home and everything they love behind unless they have no other choice. 

This is why, OBESSU and Sirius, we fight and advocate every day with our work for the right of any children to have access to quality education, no matter their background.

Statement rejecting new legislation in Hungary

Inclusion is inclusion, for LGBTQIA+ students, for migrant students, for all students.
On the 14th of June, Hungary’s parliament passed a law banning any kind of education for children regarding LGBTQIA+ issues. A huge step back for Hungary and for the European Union and European Commission who we ask to engage seriously with this issue. “The Hungarian legislation outlaws sharing information with under-18s that the government considers to be promoting homosexuality or gender change.”
SIRIUS believes that decisions about children’s emotional, mental academic, physical and moral development should be based on best-evidenced practice so that children can flourish into who they are and pursue critical thought while valuing inclusion of all and a happier, healthier society. We wholeheartedly reject this new piece of legislation.

SIRIUS Covid Response


Moving Educational Policy Forward After Covid-19 A SIRIUS Perspective

We are now several weeks into a ‘lockdown’ resulting in almost uniform school closures across the European Union. Several countries intend to start back at school this week or in early May. In an effort to support these countries and others still undergoing school closure, the SIRIUS Policy Network on Migrant Education has collaborated on this statement to produce guidance moving forward.

During this pandemic we have seen many Ministries of Education instruct schools to move to various forms of distance-learning. Yet availability of advice, tools, guidance and support to do so, as well as preparedness of schools to implement such a shift smoothly, has been very mixed. The OECD “Framework to guide a response to the Covid-19 Pandemic” reports that a large number of countries surveyed offered no initial guidance to “support the ongoing academic instruction of schools”. However, in many European Union countries we saw a slightly better response. Many countries are broadcasting educational programs on national television (Portugal, France, Belgium, Latvia, Serbia, Romania and more) and some countries have launched specific websites or worked with technological providers (Czech Republic, Romania) to deal with the delivery of educational content.

Some countries already had their educational content on-line (Estonia) whom, in particular have been key in sharing learnings from their past experiences with other countries. In addition, in some countries, the Ministry of Education has quickly produced tools and guidance for schools and has been active in supporting teacher implementation of digital learning (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Italy, Denmark and more.)

With all this work in place, the 2nd Education EU Council meeting on the Covid-19 pandemic held on 14th April 2020 demonstrated that the battle is not yet won when it comes to catering to the needs of vulnerable learners, including migrant students, and in general inclusive education. As mentioned by Blaženka Divjak, Croatian Minister of Science and Education, social equity and teacher support/development remain challenges for the group as a whole.

As a network of researchers, policy-makers and migrant-led initiatives, SIRIUS has been collecting information from their members on current practice. We have turned this into initial policy implications for both Member States and the European Union. We must use the lessons of this experience to improve and weave more resilience into our education systems thereby making them more inclusive for all.


Member State Level

Inspiring Practice

Individualised support

SIRIUS Member Don Bosco shared this from their Spanish Member Pinardi Federation of Social Platforms of the Community of Madrid.

“At Pinardi we work with all the members of the family…For this reason, the first days from our homes, an individualized follow-up was carried out on all the families to continue offering our accompaniment and to inform how to do it in a different way, to know their particular situation and to be able to support, as we have been doing until now: psychological support, educational and directed leisure ”, says Marta Raimundo, head of communication for the Pinardi Federation of Social Platforms of the Community of Madrid.

Policy Implication

Mainstream and expand the application of Individualised Education Plans

Many countries already employ an ‘Individualised Education Plan’ for students with special needs, such as learning needs or non-native language needs. These plans should include an element on communication between teachers and families/students during crises to ensure there is a regular check-in and support. The plans could also include a student or family-directed self- assessment of ‘readiness for distance learning’ including factors such as availability of a computer, tv, high-speed internet and a quiet desk area to work on.

Inspiring practice

Providing digital literacy lessons through phone calls

As SIRIUS member Terremondo, based in Italy has experienced, “some students and families have a low level of digital literacy and in some cases are unable to sign-up to the various services offered.” This means that students and parents of young students that are helping their children connect to the internet and use novel platforms are struggling to continue the learning experience.

Policy Implication

Improve school provision of digital literacy education for students AND parents (particularly parents of young children)

Whether part of a pandemic/school shut-down response plan or not, schools need to ensure that all students and in particular families have the digital skills to get their children online and learning on the first day of school shut-down. Parents may need non-native instruction or guidance and any guides or materials should be translated into all languages that are present within the school community. These sessions should also undertake the administrative aspects of students and families signing up to any services that can facilitate the regular communication between parents and the school and will be used during school closures.

Inspiring practice

Use of social media to keep up motivation with adolescents

SIRIUS member Don Bosco shared this from their partner in Italy.
“motivational initiatives through social networks which [adolescents and youth] can access privately, such as Instragram [have been successful] at the María Auxiliadora Foundation.”

Policy Implication

Ensure ‘understanding social-media’ is included in professional development for school social support workers and teachers.

Youth workers, school psychologists and educational social support personnel working with adolescents already have a strong understanding of the importance of peer and adult relationships in motivating adolescents. Moving this knowledge to the practical realm of how to use online social networks to positively impact motivation for adolescents will be critical in aiding these workers to continue their functions during times of digital learning. In-loco training and practice in regular school-time should occur.

Inspiring Practice

Recognising increased vulnerabilities in certain communities

Our member ETUCE reports that French Union SNES-FSU is lobbying the government for a solution that “does not unfairly penalise the students who [are] expected to sit exams this year, especially those in poorer or more vulnerable communities.”

Policy Implication

Providing opportunities for inclusive policy- making

Vulnerable students may struggle more in terms of exam preparation, pace of learning, access to computers and internet more than others during this time. Member states should ensure that the voices of vulnerable students including migrant students and families are included in decision-making at this present time.

Inspiring Practice

Activating peer networks for non-native speakers

The nature of on-line interaction can make it challenging for non-native speakers, particularly young children to get enough ‘talk- time’ and ‘listen-time’ with peers to continue the improvement of the native/medium of instruction language. Our member Terremondo worked to connect non-native peers with native-speaking peers to ensure that they have a higher opportunity to interact socially in the native language.

Policy Implication

Foster an on-line whole school community approach

Schools provide a rich socio-linguistic feeding ground for non-native students to integrate. Being cut off from this environment has adverse linguistic and educational impacts. Fostering a whole school online community approach within schools (peer relationships, mentoring) builds real relationships both on- line and in person that can become a necessary life-line for students and families when schools close.

The nature of on-line interaction can make it challenging for non-native speakers, particularly young children to get enough ‘talk- time’ and ‘listen-time’ with peers to continue the improvement of the native/medium of instruction language. Our member Terremondo worked to connect non-native peers with native-speaking peers to ensure that they have a higher opportunity to interact socially in the native language.


EU Level Actions

Inspiring Practice

Providing computers and devices to students and families in need.

Our member Minderheden Forum in Belgium, and many other migrant organisations (HumanAid in Vinius, Lithuania) are providing laptops and digital devices to migrant students who do not have them.

Policy Implication

Utilise Digital Education Action Plan to mobilize funding for hardware for schools (and families) in need.

Action 1 of the plan discusses financing and vouchers for connectivity but not hardware for schools. Hardware could also be discounted or vouchers made available so that schools are able to allow students from vulnerable backgrounds to continue learning at home during non-school time and in the future event of school closures. Current data from PISA (2018) shows that there is a significant difference between the educational attainment of students who have a computer at home that they can access for learning and students who do not. page4image2014806640page4image2014806928

Inspiring Practice

Recognise the social divide, not just digital

While it is recognized that the digital divide is a massive barrier to educational equity both from the perspective of technology in schools and technology in homes (Despite a 15 billion euro investment in the period 2014-2020, the goal of providing high-speed internet in all homes in the EU (necessary for streaming on- line classes) will not be met by the end of this year.) As seen above, all our members across the EU are actively working hard to access those that are socially excluded from the digital learning experience.

Policy Implications

Lead on social equity

We encourage the European Commission to lead on true equity in education by adding an additional point on their Digital Education Action Plan to recognize the importance of overcoming the social divide.

Inclusive education means that each learner has their strengths, challenges, and personal set of circumstances. It means that methods used to reach each student and deliver content need to be adapted to their particular situation. More well-funded user-centred/led research with migrant and vulnerable students and families at the heart should be funded. page5image2015294672page5image2014961296

Inspiring Practice

Estonia Ministry of Education and Online Incentivise forward-looking responses, rather preparedness than isolated reacting

Our member PRAXIS in Estonia shared the following details on Estonia’s smooth move to digital education during this pandemic. “When schools in Estonia switched to the remote-learning system on 16 March 2020, the number of users of e-learning platforms increased by ten folds. The smooth transfer was ensured by regular use of national electronic homework diaries/communication points eSchool and Stuudium by all schools. Investment for good internet connection, development of electronic study materials and development of teachers ́ digital skills benefited the situation. Over the past years, the schools have been able to apply for funds to develop the areas where their school needs most support – from obtaining computers and training teachers to composing strategic plans for IT developments.” 

Policy Implications

The EU should incentivise Member States to prepare an education system shut-down plan which not only includes actions related to the move to digital learning but guides local education authorities, schools, school directors, teachers and other school support staff on their domains of responsibility for future shut-down occurrences. The plans should encourage all parties to work together and build on the resilience that has already been weaved into the system through the Covid-19 response by ensuring inclusive policy-making occurs.




A framework to guide education response to the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020

Education ministers discussed the challenges of the distance learning

Soluciones Originales Compromiso Esfuerzo Frente La Crisis La Covid-19

Il Coronavirus ci mette tutti alla prova roberto-coronavirus&utm_term=post-organico

PISA data explorer

Broadband in the EU Member States: despite progress, not all the Europe 2020 targets will be met

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Statement on the revision of the EU Key Competences Framework 2018

Sirius Network acknowledges the importance of the common framework of crucial competences for life across Member States, presenting a step forward to a holistic approach to education and training. However, the Network stresses the need for further synergies and a better alignment with other existing frameworks and researches, such as from the OECD and Council of Europe.

Back to School: Responding to the needs of newcomer refugee youth 2017

The high number of recently arrived refugees in minor age places their integration high on the agenda of education systems. Refugee children and youth have specific needs that set them apart from other migrant pupils, and schools and teachers need to respond in a timely and adequate way. Drawing on Eurostat data, this MPG paper first provides a detailed insight into the size, distribution and age structure of minors who recently applied for, or received, international protection in Europe, thus showing how far-reaching the tasks are in the years ahead. It continues with an overview of eight particular challenges for successfully integrating refugee children and youth in schools, which often correspond to unmet needs and education policy gaps in European countries. These challenges include e.g. prolonged insecurity due to long asylum procedures, problems with assessing previous attainments, need for catch-up education to make good time spent outside school, traumatization or a high share of unaccompanied minors above compulsory school age. Referring to MIPEX results, stakeholder interviews in seven countries and key results of previous research, the paper then sketches out the strengths and weaknesses of migrant education policies across European countries and identifies success factors in national policies for newcomer pupils. The annex includes an analysis of EU-level stakeholder organisations active in the migrant education field.