Idomeni refugee camp in Greece
Idomeni refugee camp in Greece

World Refugee Day: The imperative to save lives and give hope

published 19 June 2023 updated 20 June 2023

The recent shipwreck in the Mediterranean that claimed hundreds of lives highlights once again the plight of those fleeing conflict, poverty, and persecution. Education International and education unions around the world call on all governments to respect the rights of all refugees without discrimination of any kind. Lives must be protected, and hope must be restored.

“We cannot stand by and allow the Mediterranean or any border region in the world to become a place of hopelessness and death. It is our moral and legal duty to welcome all those fleeing hardship and violence and restore their hope for a better future. This World Refugee Day and every day, we call on governments everywhere to respect the rights of all refugees and ensure their protection and inclusion in host communities.”

David Edwards | Education International General Secretary

On June 14th an overcrowded boat carrying as many as 750 refugees and sailing from Libya to Italy sank about 80 km off the Greek town of Pylos. Only 104 people survived. More than 500 people are believed missing, including many children. Relatives from Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt are desperately searching for their loved ones.

This is the second deadliest refugee and migrant shipwreck, after a similar capsizing killed up to 1,100 people in 2015, on the same route from Libya to Italy.

Perilous journeys across the Mediterranean have become tragically common, endangering the lives of thousands of vulnerable people desperate to get to safety. Smuggling networks are taking advantage of people’s desperation and lack of opportunities to apply for asylum in the European Union.

Education International calls on the European Union and its member states, as well as all governments in the world to respect the rights of all those fleeing violence, persecution and hardship and provide safe and accessible paths to refugee status.

Education International denounces any type of discrimination against refugees. All people fleeing their homelands must be treated with dignity regardless of nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, or any other background.

Furthermore, Education International calls on governments to ensure the inclusion of refugees into host communities, with a particular focus on access to quality education for refugee children and young people.

Supporting the teachers who bring hope through education

The Global Refugee Forum, which will take place in Geneva in December 2023, is an opportunity to accelerate progress in advancing the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees and deliver on the promise of inclusion for millions of refugees worldwide. Those in situations of forced displacement cannot afford any more delays.

Education International is working with partners around the world to advocate for the rights of refugees. EI is committed to mobilising support for teachers teaching refugee students as well as displaced teachers, who build inclusion through education and bring hope to their communities.

The lack of recognition and inadequate support systems for teachers in situations of forced displacement has negative implications for teachers’ job satisfaction, engagement and well-being, which has a negative effect for refugee children’s schooling, achievement, well-being, and future prospects.

It is thus critical to address the challenges facing teachers in refugee hosting areas and enable them to deliver quality education to their students.

Education International advocates for:

  • Fair recognition of refugee teachers’ qualifications in countries of exile, so that refugee teachers can be included in national education systems and access full professional status, including access to continuous professional development initiatives. Legal and policy barriers that restrict refugee teachers’ right to work and employment must be removed.
  • The improvement of the professional status of all teachers by ensuring adequate compensation, working conditions, terms of employment and access to quality and continuous professional development. Through social dialogue with national education unions, national strategies should be designed towards this aim, which include refugee teachers/teachers in refugee settings.
  • The provision of predictable, reliable, and sustainable multi-year financing. This financing must include refugee teacher salaries and associated incentives to improve refugee teacher recruitment, integration within national education systems, and retainment. Adequate financing must ensure that refugee teachers enjoy employment terms and conditions for fair and decent work.