IFGE wants to highlight this year’s World Refugee Day on 20th June, a day designated by the U.N. to honour the plight of refugees around the world. It is also an opportunity to draw attention to their rights and build empathy to help improve their circumstances. This year the focus will be on ‘the right to seek safety’. We believe that everyone has a right to seek safety, whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee. The day, therefore, celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country in search of better, more secure lives. This reality has been brought closer to our attention with the number people forced to leave Ukraine, but we may be less aware of the plight of refugees in other parts of the world where oppressive conditions, conflict and climate change force people out of their own countries or internally displace them in huge numbers.
UNHCR states that out of the 20.7 million refugees, under their care, 7.9 million are refugee children of school age. Their access to education is limited, with almost half of them unable to attend school at all. Opportunities for higher education are extremely limited too and only five percent of refugees now have access to it. IFGE asserts that the right to education for refugees needs to be upheld and this is hugely important if SDG 4 is to be advanced. We need to emphasise that the basic human right to education is enshrined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1951 Refugee Convention and we have signed up to protect and ensure this right. Education protects refugee children and youth from forced recruitment into armed groups, child labour, sexual exploitation and child marriage. It empowers them with knowledge and skills to live productive, independent lives and also strengthens their community resilience.
The World Economic Forum has said that ‘pre-existing operational and logistical constraints coupled with the effects of the pandemic have made it harder for refugees and asylum seekers to access education’. IFGE agrees that World Refugee Day presents an opportunity to reimagine education approaches and resources that will mean better access for refugees and that this is a matter of urgency.