Refugees and Migrants


EI is guided by the principles of human rights, democracy, and social justice. EI recognizes that education is a human right and a public good helping to enable people at all stages in their lives to achieve their maximum potential. EI has an role to play in promoting the right to learn and right to teach for refugees and migrants both because education is fundamental to this work and because it is, by its very nature, an international issue.  

The growing refugee and displaced persons’ crisis is stunning in its magnitude. According to the statistical data compiled by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), half of displaced persons are under 18 years old. Displaced children are disproportionately at risk of forced labour, trafficking, child marriage, sexual exploitation, and recruitment in armed conflicts and violence.  

This displacement can last for months, years, or even a lifetime, resulting in parts of a whole generation of children  denied access to the most basic levels of education. The UNHCR estimates that among the displaced youth in medium-to-longer-term settlements, only half attend primary school and a quarter attend secondary school.  

For refugees and displaced persons who are newly arrived and require that basic needs be met, these needs can include non-formal education, counselling, initial language, and activities that are enjoyable and practical. In areas where refugees will be staying for longer periods of time, their rights include quality education, education provided by public authorities and available freely to all, inclusive education and equality in education and society, and qualified and high professional status for their teachers.  

Displaced persons and refugees also include teachers, researchers, or education personnel who can participate in the delivery of the right to education in transit and destination countries. EI also promotes and protects the rights of these teachers, researchers, and education employees. If and when such educators are requested to participate in the delivery of education or seek employment in their transit or destination country, their rights should be fully respected.  

Most refugees are found in developing countries. In the case of Syrian refugees, most of them are in neighbouring countries. Conditions are not always good and there are many weaknesses in the availability and quality of education. It is important that host countries receive adequate international assistance to ensure that all human rights of refugees, including the right to education, are respected.  

EI is concerned that some countries are not fully respecting their treaty obligations to accept refugees and honour the specific provisions of the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol. For migrants, there are also excellent Conventions of the ILO and the UN that are ratified by too few States.  



EI policy regarding refugees and migrants is mostly shaped by various resolutions passed by the World Congresses, in addition to specific documents published by EI. The World Congresses have passed the following resolutions with regards to migrants and refugees: “Resolution on Children of Refugees and Asylum Seekers” (1998), “Resolution on Teacher Migration and Mobility” (2011), “Resolution on Migration, Professional Diversity, and Racism” (2015), and “Resolution on the right to education for displaced people, refugees, and stateless children” (2015).  


Migrant Teacher Rights’ Portal  

Entry into the teaching profession and related roles must be inclusive and without discrimination. Governments should recognize the skills and experiences that refugee and migrant teachers and education support personnel bring and find avenues for involving them in education and training, without discrimination or exploitation. Efforts should be made to recognize their qualifications and special status. Public authorities should also support and monitor employment practices to ensure that discrimination does not occur.  

EI has supported the rights of migrants and migrant teachers with the Resolution of Teacher Migration and Mobility” (2011), the Teacher Migration Task Force (2012-2015), the establishment and maintenance of the portal, the fostering of a Virtual Global Network of Migrant Teachers and the conduction of a study in 2010 on education for refugee and asylum seeking children with case studies from Australia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The 2015 World Congress “Resolution on Migration, Professional Diversity, and Racism” stated that migrant teachers should enjoy the right to dignity at work, free from any form of discrimination. To check the Migrant Teacher Rights Portal, click here: www.migrantteachersrights.orgA major EI conference was held in Stockholm in November 2016 to bring together education union representatives with others to share experience on refugee education and provide ideas for progressing the implementation if the EI program on refugee education.  

Education Unions Initiatives 

Education unions have a special role to play in safeguarding the human and trade union rights of persons, whatever their status, and particularly children, but also teachers, education support personnel, researchers, students, and education unionists. EI and member organizations have an important role to play in helping to ensure that the right to education is delivered to displaced persons, that this education is inclusive, and that the roles of all education personnel amongst displaced persons are recognized, valued, and rewarded.  

Key activities include: 

  • Analysing policies and practices of educational authorities in destination countries in providing education to these children and youth.  

  • Advocating policies and practices to deliver the right to education and the rights of education personnel.  

  • Strategizing with teachers and school-based personnel – including those from the refugee or migrant communities – to fulfil the right to education, including school-wide human rights-based approaches.  

“Building bridges, not walls” (USA/Mexico) 

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Mexico’s Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) are working to build cross-border initiatives to promote quality education. A first meeting involved union representatives from four American and six Mexican border states on 25-27 October 2015 in Houston, Texas. AFT and SNTE agreed to explore ways to complement their existing work. Concretely they will promote a guide detailing the human and education rights of migrant students and their families and the rights of teachers. They will also build a robust online platform tool for professional development and certification in language skills. 


“Education cannot wait” (Germany) 

The German education union GEW produced a package of recommendations under the title ‘Education cannot wait’ regarding immediate actions necessary for the access to education for refugees and asylum seekers. The advocacy included increased budget for education institutions for the integration of refugees and recommendations and tips for the teachers and education support personnel.  


Decent Welcome (France) 

French education unions and development NGO Solidarité Laïque launched a national call to provide immediate assistance to refugee families arriving in France. They aim to provide education support to children and youth, as well as to provide school equipment and supplies, literacy courses and cultural and sport activities. The initiative aims to contribute to decently welcoming those who have lost everything and hope for a better future.  

Page Break 

EI Congress 1998 – “Resolution on Children of Refugees and Asylum Seekers” 

  1. Acknowledging the: 

  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

  1. Declaration of the Rights of the Child 

  1. Convention on the Rights of the Child 

  1. Calls upon all nations to respect and implement the international conventions giving every child a right to education.  

  1. Children of refugees, asylum seekers, or seekers of residence on humanitarian grounds are more vulnerable than other children. Education is a human right and a pre-requisite for participation in a modern society, but it is also a strategy for survival in crisis and a preparation for possible repatriation.  

  1. Education International’s member organizations will seek to influence their national governments to develop education policies and legal systems that ensure these children their rights without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s legal status in the country of residence, national, ethnic or social origin, or other status.  

Page Break 

EI Congress 2011 – “Resolution on Teacher Migration and Mobility” 

  1. Noting that international migration and mobility has become a global phenomenon, representing a notable challenge for many countries and risen to the top of the policy agenda in many parts of the world. 

  1. Observing uneasily the possibility that the grave effects of the economic crisis triggered in 2007, and its aftermath of mass layoffs, growing unemployment, U-turns in social policies and the progressive breakdown of welfare states, are contributing to the arousal of society’s feelings and actions of rejecting the migrant population. 

  1. Underlining the fundamental role which could be played by quality public education, based on values aimed at building citizenship for everyone in the processes of the positive integration of immigrants.  

  1. Noting with concern the growing number of education professionals who leave the countries where they are trained for economic, cultural, religious, or political reasons, adding to the ranks of those who feel obliged to work in activities unrelated to the studies and disciplines that they have prepared. 

  1. Acknowledging UN data that international migrants constitute over three percent of the world’s population, and that nearly half of these migrants are women. 

  1. Noting the growing and accelerated feminization of the migratory process, as women now represent more than half the population of those living outside their country of birth.  

  1. Recognizing the establishment of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) by the UN in 2006 and its potential to provide a platform for international dialogue on migration and development policy and practice.  

  1. Recalling that the Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol (CTRP) was recognized by EI and the ILO in 2006 as an instrument of good practice in dealing with teacher migration issues.  

  1. Motivated by a desire to protect migrant workers, particularly teachers and other education employees and their families.  

  1. Noting that few countries have ratified and fully implemented the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and ILO Conventions 97 (Migration for Employment Convention) and 143 (Migrant Workers Convention).  

  1. Observing that brain drain as a consequence of migration may have adverse effects, particularly on the economies and education systems of developing countries and small states.  

  1. Considering that the teachers who migrate are often well qualified and/or those dealing with subjects such as sciences, mathematics and information and communication technologies, the sending countries, most of which are developing and/or small states are thereby deprived of highly skilled education employees.  

  1. Affirming that migrants, particularly migrant teachers and their families, contribute to the development of both their countries of origin and the host countries. 

  1. Recognizing that mobility equips individual student and teacher migrants with new skills, experience and expertise and promotes cultural and information exchange, innovation and the creation of viral international networks that improve the quality of education systems and stimulate economic development in both the sending and receiving countries.  

  1. Acknowledging the need to promote teacher mobility while safeguarding the integrity of education systems, particularly in developing countries, as outlined in the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers and the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel. 

  1. Noting with concern the exploitation of migrant teachers, particularly by recruitment agencies and employment bodies in many receiving countries.  

  1. Noting with concern the non-recognition of qualifications and loss of professional status when skilled education personnel migrate, particularly from less developed to developed countries.  

  1. Noting with concern the discriminatory treatments experienced by migrant teachers whilst in employment.  

  1. Recognizing the fundamental role that teacher trade unions play in safeguarding the human and trade union rights of migrants, migrant teachers, and other education employees and their families.  

  1. Convinced that the increasing scale, scope, and complexity of international migration, as well as the challenges and opportunities presented by the cross-border movement of people, especially teachers and education workers, calls for immediate action at the international level to facilitate mobility and regulate such migration.  

The 6th World Congress of EI: 

  1. Reiterates its conviction expressed in the Fifth World Congress that “emigrants contribute to development both in their country of birth and their host countries” and that “migration has the potential to stimulate the cultural and economic changes between nations and to strengthen peace and mutual understanding.” However, the positive aspects of human migration are not spontaneous or automatic. Therefore, it recognizes that hard work is needed to achieve them.  

  1. In that respect, it manifests its conviction that the migratory phenomenon should be addressed from the validity of human rights and with instruments provided by democracy.  

  1. Vehemently rejects the messages and actions promoted by racism, xenophobia, and discrimination. In particular, it reiterates that schools should be free from circumstances such as these. 

  1. Urges governments to adopt specific emergency actions against all types of racism and xenophobia, specifically in an educational environment.  

  1. Encourages the governments of the receiving countries to take specific measures to ensure that all children, including children of migrants with or without documentation, have the right to a quality education in equal conditions, as was promised in the conclusions from Dakar and the Millennium Development Goals.  

  1. Likewise, it reminds the authorities in the countries of origin of their international and local commitments to eliminate the causes which provoke the exodus of their citizens, including poverty, social injustice, and gender related violence, among others.  

  1. Highlights that the crisis should not be used to delay the efforts made until now to achieve those commitments and goals for 2015.  

  1. Encourages that all institutions of learning should be free of racism and discrimination. 

  1. Resolves that member countries should join forces with civil society organizations to expose racism and xenophobia and to educate their population in this respect.  

  1. Encourages EI member organizations to encourage education authorities into developing and implementing curricula with perspective of human rights, integration, and multi and interculturalism 

The World Congress, therefore, mandates the Executive Board, in cooperation with member organizations: 

  1. To campaign for the ratification and implementation of international instruments that promote the human and trade union rights of migrants, migrant teachers and their families and, in particular, the ratification of the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and ILO Conventions 97 and 143.  

  1. To promote the Commonwealth Teacher Recruitment Protocol and/or its principles, as well as support other international, regional, or national efforts to develop and implement policies, programs, and instruments that promote and protect the rights of migrants, migrant teachers, and other education employees.  

  1. To campaign for the regulation of the activities of recruitment agencies in order to curb unethical practices and the exploitation of migrant teachers. 

  1. To support international, regional, and national level initiatives that promote mobility of students and skilled education personnel and the cross-border recognition of comparable qualifications.  

  1. To cooperate with other Global Unions in defending the rights of migrants, migrant teachers, and other education employees and their families and to lobby governments and international organizations such as UNESCO, the ILO, IOM (International Organization for Migration), the World Bank and the OECD to develop policies that facilitate voluntary student and teacher mobility, while protecting the integrity of vulnerable education systems, and particularly those of developing countries.  

  1. To establish a Teacher Migration Task Force comprised of representatives from both source and destination countries and to develop a virtual Global Network of Migrant Teachers in order to facilitate the sharing of information and ideas.  

  1. Encourages member organizations to make decisions which impede discrimination against their students based on their nationality or ethnicity, or the migratory condition and to organize migrant teachers and other education employees, recruit them and defend their human and trade union rights and to support them and their families to integrate successfully in the host country to ensure that employers in the educational sector do not use migrant workers as casual labor, which encourages social dumping. 

  1. Requests that the EI Research Institute undertakes research into various aspects of teacher migration, including its impact on both the source and receiving countries.  

  1. Encourages member organizations to develop their capacity to conduct studies of teacher migration in their respective countries and to develop a data base that can be accessed by migrant teachers. 

  1. Calls upon the member organizations to collect and exchange up-to-date information on the migration of teachers, especially on the conditions for the recognition of studies and certificates, access to teaching and working conditions, among other relevant aspects. 

  1. Urges EI affiliates to show their solidarity with migrant colleagues, through cooperation in development, but also by means of actions which allow them to be received into better conditions (e.g. providing information which contributes to their personal and family integration).  

  1. Calls upon governments and education institutions to improve the conditions of service for all skilled education personnel in order to reduce the factors that cause brain drain and to facilitate the return of migrants with mutual benefits to both source and receiving countries.  

  1. Call upon teacher unions in different regions and countries to develop bilateral and multilateral strategies on how to best address challenges of migrating teachers and lobby governments and intergovernmental organizations.  

  1. Urges governments, civil society, and unions not to forget the necessary gender dimension in the actions they take.  



EI Congress 2015 – “Resolution on Migration, Professional Diversity, and Racism”  

The Congress notes: 

  1. That there is robust evidence demonstrating the link between quality education and equity of educational rights and entitlements. 

  1. That schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions have a critical role to play in promoting equality and diversity and in tackling inequality, including that based on ethnicity, religion, and nationality.  

  1. That education institutions contribute most effectively to transforming lives and life chances when they exist as inclusive communities in which the rights and entitlements of all members – staff, students, and other stakeholders – are safeguarded and promoted.  

  1. The excellent work undertaken by Education International in standing up for migrant teachers and in developing a global strategy through the work of the Teacher Migration Task Force.  

The Congress further notes: 

  1. That teacher mobility is a global phenomenon that requires a concerted and coordinated effort to curb the violation of migrant teachers’ labour rights.  

  1. That migrant teachers often face unfair treatment, discrimination and racism.  

  1. That migrant teachers also face exploitation from governments and employers and, together with migrant workers in other sectors, are victimized and blamed for wider social problems.  

  1. That economic austerity policy in many countries has increased the extent of discrimination, scapegoating, and exploitation of migrant teachers.  

The Congress believes: 

  1. That the exchange of ideas and experiences between teachers from different nationalities and ethnic and religious backgrounds benefits from education systems, enriches the curriculum, and benefits students. 

  1. That migrant teachers make a vitally important and necessary contribution to the provision of quality education systems.  

  1. Migrant teachers should enjoy the right to dignity at work, free from any form of discrimination. 

  1. That teacher mobility should be supported and assisted on the basis of an internationally recognized and integrated framework of teacher qualifications.  

The Congress resolves: 

  1. To support the work of member organizations in promoting equality for migrant teachers.  

  1. To continue to support the work of Education International in working with supra-national organizations, including UNESCO and the ILO, to promote the benefits of teacher mobility.  

  1. To campaign for the equal treatment of migrant teachers and education support personnel and to end the unscrupulous actions of some employment agencies.  


Page Break 

EI Congress 2015 – “Resolution on the right to education for displaced people, refugees, and stateless children” 

The Congress notes: 

  1. That many countries are engaged with sometimes recurring armed conflicts. 

  1. That in some countries, civil wars create rifts based on ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation. 

  1. That many individuals and whole families flee their country to be safe from the conflicts.  

  1. That of the world’s 51.2 million forcibly displaced people, half are below the age of 18 years.  

  1. That statistical data compiled by the UNHCR confirm that conflict and persecution forced an average of 32,200 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their countries or in other countries.  

  1. That developing countries host 86% of the world’s refugees and displaced people but often lack the resources or infrastructure they need to meet their needs, including access to shelter, water, food and clothing.  

  1. That the living conditions of such refugees are often catastrophic.  

  1. That displaced children are disproportionately at risk of forced labor, child marriage, sexual exploitation, and violence and recruitment by armed militia.  

  1. That many displaced children are denied access to even the most basic levels of education. 

  1. That children born stateless, much like children who arrive in a foreign country after their parents’ exile are generally particularly vulnerable as concerns their rights.  

The Congress further notes: 

  1. That more than 100 years ago, the Red Cross established the right to healthcare in conflict zones, but the right of refugees to education has yet to be won.  

  1. That national governments have the primary responsibility for ensuring children’s rights in displacement.  

  1. That displacement can last for years or a lifetime. In many instances, children who are displaced grow up without any education throughout their lives. 

  1. In a context where children are fleeing from conflict or natural disasters, education is too often seen as a “luxury” and not as a priority for displaced children.  

  1. That the success of Education International’s Unite for Quality Education campaign depends upon national and international efforts to protect the right to quality education for the world’s most vulnerable children, including refugee and displaced children 

The Congress believes: 

  1. That education is a fundamental human right that should be accessible to all people including those displaced by conflict or natural disasters.  

  1. That education fosters understanding of and respect for others, and therefore plays an important role in preventing violence and conflicts.  

  1. That national governments and the international community should be explicitly obliged to ensure that this right is a reality for all children and young people.  

  1. That richer countries should contribute more to fulfil the spirit of their international commitments and obligations to meeting the needs of refugee and displaced children, including through the provision of access to education.  


The Congress resolves: 

  1. To continue to advance the ideals, aims, and objectives of the EI Unite for Quality Education campaign in the interests of refugee and displaced children, ensuring that the problem of the language of schooling is not an obstacle for refugees.  

  1. To continue to provide support and assistance to member organizations in countries where there are large numbers of refugees and displaced children. 

  1. To maintain pressure on national governments and international institutions to prioritize financial assistance for the education of refugees and internally displaced people, especially in states having a common border with a country of conflict and welcoming a very important number of them.  

  1. To work with affiliates, the UNHCR and other partner organizations to assist refugees in developing the skills and knowledge they need and to plan activities and actions that promote self-reliance and sustainable, peaceful coexistence.  

Share this page