The Global Forum on Migration and Development provided education unions with a great opportunity to highlight the key role that education plays in the integrating migrants.
The 9th Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), held from 8-10 December in Dhaka, Bangladesh, focused on “Time for Action: Doing rights-based governance of migration and development in communities and across borders”.
Addressing delegates on the panel of “What between now and GFMD in June 2017”, National Union of Teachers (NUT) International Relations Officer Samidha Garg stressed that “public services are central to the sustainable integration of migrants and refugees in society”.
Whilst the forum had discussed the “toxic atmosphere” in which the civil society was operating and the relentless spread of nationalism, populism, racism and xenophobia, “there is no better antidote to this than education”, she said. Education is “about building respect and critical thinking” and is “a powerful tool against all forms of bigotry and prejudice”.
Education can be the fast-tracked to integrate refugee and migrant children, adapting them to local languages and practices, Garg also noted.
SDG 4 vital
Pathma Krishnan from the Education International (EI) Asia Pacific office echoed these sentiments, adding that the sustainable development goal (SDG) 4 on education is vital. Governments in transit and receiving countries must ensure that all migrant and refugee children, youth and adults have access to education, she said. It is also crucial that teachers in destination countries are trained and supported to meet the diverse needs of migrants and refugee children, she acknowledged.
Krishnan also insisted that a lack of political will is a significant challenge. Increasingly, the spread of the Global Education Reform Movement has led to an overemphasis on high-stakes testing, the erosion of teacher professionalism and undue emphasis on numeracy and literary. The space for citizenship education within school is shrinking, she said. “The challenge is how to restore them with professional freedom to promote respect for cultural diversity as an important antidote for racism and xenophobia,” she pointed out.
Global Compact on Migration
Within the trade union and civil society movement, there is also a need to see education as an integral part of the solution and to focus on education in the next GFMD.
Education unions believe that the UN should ensure the full participation of civil society, in particular trade unions, in the development of the Global Compact on Migration. This should guarantee migrants’, refugee children’s and youth’s right to education, as was recently emphasised at the EI Conference on “Providing Education to Refugee Children from Conflict Areas in the Middle East - Fast track to Equal Opportunities and Integration,” held from 21-22 November in Stockholm, Sweden.
Among specific achievable measures and recommendations discussed by trade unions at the GFMD are: the regularisation of irregular migrants, especially those who have been in in countries for a long time; migrants and refugees of legal status having access to basic services such as education and health, with new pathways to legal status and broadened use of temporary visa; the need for a widespread responsibility in the tripartite system, trade unions, governments and businesses working with migrants and refugees; the recognition of the International Labour Organisation as a key player in the global governance of migration; and a ‘zero recruitment fee’ for workers, employers being accountable for any recruitment fee and any other legal fees in the country of destination, as in the German model.