European Discussions: Students and young people met European Commission officials to discuss the inclusion of young refugees

30th March 2021 – As part of the collaboration between ESU/Together, Moving Forward and the Voices of Young Refugees in Europe, we organized a discussion together with the European Commission’s representatives, students and young activists to discuss the role of the European Union when it comes to migration, inclusion and education.

Ms Diez Guardia, from the Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs, reminded the group that migration and integration policies remain mostly a competence of Member States and that the European Commission is supporting cooperation and exchanges of practices between the Member States through various networks and funding opportunities. The recently published Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for the period 2021-2027 will support strong partnerships between civil society organisations, national and local authorities, expert groups and citizens. Participation is also at the cornerstone, both for the host society and the newcomers. In this line, Ms Diez Guardia presented the Expert Group on Migrants Views, created in 2020 and composed of people who experience migration and with refugee backgrounds. The members of this group can be consulted by any European Commission department, where the group’s opinion is considered necessary.

Mr Catot, from the Directorate General Migration and Home Affairs, kindly shared the views of the European Commission when it comes to Legal and Complementary pathways for refugees, particularly for students. Concretely, in a Recommendation, the European Commission aims to support the Member States efforts in providing and enhancing legal and safe channels for people in need of international protection. For Students, the Commission encourages the Member States to improve access to universities for young people in need of international protection. However, it is important to focus on the quality of the programmes proposed. As young people will be qualified as “students” and without a “refugee” status, it could be important for the Member States and Universities to consider setting up dedicated programmes, more flexible academic selection process, financial support (living allowance, accommodation, transport, etc.), adapted language classes, etc. They should also provide counselling and help graduates wishing to stay in the Member State to look for a job.

Finally, Ms Trojanova, from the Directorate Education, Audiovisual and Culture, emphasized that the social dimension of education and inclusive education is highly supported by the European Commission, particularly in the new Erasmus+ programme. A few European and international initiatives have been presented supporting social inclusion in education, such as the so-called, Refugee Passport of the Council of Europe, the discussion around micro-credentials to ease the access to formal education, the Eurostudent project that collects and analyses comparable data on the social dimension of European Higher Education.

The 22 participants, all students and young activists could ask directly some question and share their concerns and personal experience.