The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union (FRA) recently published a report on access to education for asylum-seeking children based on their monthly data collection on migration in Europe. This information is especially important considering that for the year of 2016; over 100.000 children arrived in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria.
The report found that access to education is severely limited for asylum-seeking children especially. Even though the data cannot always be relied on (it is not systematically collected), the report found that nine out of the fourteen Member States (MS) covered in the report did not provide education for children in immigration detention; this was mainly due to the short length and exceptional nature of their detention. Evidently, there are practical difficulties to providing formal education to children on the move, which include, inter alia, language barriers, lack of information, low allowances for asylum applicants to cover expenses, and the treatment and integration of traumatized children. The situation is even more difficult for traumatized asylum-seeking children, as the MS seldom offer psychological support (only three out of fourteen MS), and the education staff rarely receive adequate training allowing them to identify and treat this. Unfortunately, few MS address issues arising from irregular school attendance or disabilities, and diplomas from the different countries of origin are not automatically recognized. One silver lining is that, once an asylum-seeking child enters the formal education system, they have access to the same services as national children, and even sometimes receive additional support (such as language services or financial allowances).
Many of these findings are supported in the Human Rights Watch (HRW) submission to the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report on Migration and Education. Not only does HRW recommend that governments respect their positive obligation to make education accessible for all children (through combatting discrimination and revoking immigration-related requirements for enrollment), they should make sure that the education responds to the needs of asylum-seeking children; that it includes language courses and addresses the needs of children with disabilities, for instance. The implementation should be monitored through efficient data collection and the staff should be properly trained and equipped. This is especially necessary in situations where children are detained for long periods of time.
On top of the dangers faced by asylum-seeking children in the form of violence, sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking, lack of education can have long-lasting effects on their life, including lack of personal development and inability to find employment in the future.