Until the end of 2016, we worked with partners Sursum (Slovenia) and C.A.R.E. (Sweden) to deliver the Erasmus + funded project 'A Refugee Like Me'. It brought young people and their refugee peers together to discuss challenges and build policy suggestions for welcoming refugees in the UK and Europe.
Europe is currently seeing the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Refugees, many of them young, are seeking asylum in the EU and preferentially choosing northern European countries as their final destination, travelling though southern and eastern member states. The crisis has highlighted the differing attitudes policy stances towards migrants and referees with the EU and the Schengen area in particular.
Even in countries with support systems for young refugees and asylum seekers, they face significant barriers to education and integration. This is especially the case when refugees do not speak the language of their host country, don't have transferable qualifications, and have particularly different cultures and customs. If refugees are not supported, these translate into low employability and integration. The situation is even more challenging in countries without strong public sector services, many of which are facing their own economic crises. An additional challenge is the growing resentment towards refugees and immigrants in many parts of Europe, which is often the result of cultural differences and friction with native economically marginalised communities.
Solidarity requires recognising the shared humanity of all people - those from the EU and also those outside it, especially those suffering and in need of asylum. To foster solidarity, stakeholders from different groups need to meet, exchange ideas, and explore how much they have in common. Access to education is an essential part of creating solidarity among young people, as the classroom can be the ideal place for these exchanges.
Hear from the young people involved in the project!
This project will bring together 200 young people (both local and refugees) from three European countries with different experiences of welcoming refugees, Sweden, the UK and Slovenia and offering the chance for them to meet with refugees, experts in education and integration and policymakers and come up with recommendations for integrating and accommodating refugees in education systems in their countries.
By working with partners and young people from three countries, two of which (Sweden and the UK) are very diverse, it will create a great opportunity for young people to connect with their European peers. This group will also work together to develop both recommendations for European Solidarity in the face of the Refugee Crisis, and their own personal sense of European citizenship and solidarity.
Decision-makers tasked with increasing youth employability and improving youth education need to understand what young refugees need to be ready for a new life. If adolescents are going to integrate into a new school or be able to access work in their new home, they will need to feel accepted and welcomed, and will also need an understanding of their new country's cultural norms and opportunities. Education systems need to be adapted in order to meet the needs of young people who want to learn but may not speak the national language. Without this support, young refugees have limited access to the labour market. Often refugees and the young people who are or will become their classmates, friends and colleagues are not given a voice in how best these goals should be reached.
"A Refugee Like Me" aims to give young people the chance to share their ideas about how to overcome these challenges with those who can make a difference in forming or delivering policy.