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Teachers stand up for displaced children and teachers

As growing numbers of refugees try to find safety from conflict, persecution, and natural disasters often induced by climate change, Education International is highlighting the plight of displaced children and educators worldwide.

According to the United Nations, 70.8 million children, women, and men had been forcibly displaced by the end of 2018, the highest number in the past 70 years.No one runs from home unless their home is under attack,” said David Edwards, Education International’s General Secretary. “We are on the side of all the people who have to flee from their homes.”

Edwards was speaking at a protest held in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier this week in collaboration with Public Services International and the American Federation of Teachers. The protest was in support of a complaint submitted to the UN Human Rights Council concerning the US government’s immigration detention policy. According to the signing organisations – the American Federation of Teachers, Education International, the Public Services International, Mexican trade unions SNTE and STUNAM as well as other faith and civil society organisations – this policy constitutes a serious violation against asylum-seeking and migrant children’s human rights (see petition).

“Policies targeting immigrants and refugees are intended to incite fear and elicit division,” said Edwards in a blog post released today. “Entire nations are suffering. However, policies and politics of hate are cruellest when the price is paid by the most defenceless among us: children.” 

Countries fail to act

Despite international consensus that immigration detention is never in the best interest of children and should not be resorted to, many countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child continue to place children and families in immigration detention. EI strongly condemns such policies which prevent children from exercising their fundamental rights, including their right to education, and deny them access to healthy, safe and nurturing environments.

As the global union federation representing teachers and education employees worldwide, today EI also celebrates the resilience of internationally displaced educators who fight for their recognition and inclusion in their host countries’ education systems. EI urges national education authorities to take concrete steps in this regard.

Integration of displaced educators

To date, very few countries have adopted policies or measures to facilitate the integration of refugee- and foreign-trained teachers in the education workforce. This has happened despite evidence showing the benefits of a diverse teaching profession to the whole student body and education system. And it continues to happen in a context of severe teacher shortages, especially in countries hosting significant numbers of displaced populations.

This was echoed by Brhan Al-Zoabi, a Syrian teacher organising refugee educators within EI affiliate Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft(GEW) in Saxony, Germany. “You lack teachers, we are teachers. You help us, we help you,” he said in a podcast released today on EI’s Ed Voices.

Outlining the Swedish teachers’ union’s perspective on that country’s approach to the recognition and requalification of foreign-trained teachers, Patrik Ribe of Lärarförbundet said: “Teachers with a background in other countries often have a lot to contribute (…) in terms of knowledge, experience, and new perspectives. (…) All newly arrived teachers should have good conditions to continue exercising their profession in their new home country.”

Renewed commitment

On World Refugee Day, education unions around the world unite with a renewed commitment to the rights of all displaced populations, and particularly children and students, teachers, education support personnel, researchers and education unionists. A growing number of EI affiliates have stepped up their engagement and developed policies and programmes to support the human and trade union rights of persons on the move. EI recently produced a toolkitcompiling examples of field practices to support unions, educators and school communities’ efforts to integrate refugees and migrants in and through education. Teacher organisations will continue to lead the way in their countries and local communities to ensure that the right to education is delivered to newcomers, that this education is inclusive, and that the roles of all education personnel, also those amongst displaced persons, are recognised, valued and rewarded.

More information on EI’s and affiliates’ initiatives in the field of international migration and forced displacement is available on > and on Twitter: @Ed4refugees.



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