Education needs to be at the heart of migration policy

published 19 December 2017 updated 20 December 2017

Education should be at the core of the new Global Compact for Migration, according to Education International, commenting on the importance of a whole-of-society approach to migration at the local and national level.

UN member states, and indeed all governments, are obliged to guarantee the human rights of all migrants. That’s according to Education International (EI) Dennis Sinyolo. “These rights are encapsulated in existing United Nations (UN) Covenants and Conventions.”

Sinyolo made his remarks during a panel on national perspectives of the whole-of-society approach to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The panel was held during informal multi-stakeholder hearings before the Global Compact for migration and the intergovernmental conference on international migration. This was held on 18 December at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York, USA.

The hearing provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the need for cooperation and partnerships between different segments of society, including civil society, the private sector, diaspora communities, migrants, local and national authorities, schools, academia and others to develop and implement a coherent and whole-of-society approach to migration.

The President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, explained that “we are here to look at how migration affects local authorities. We want to go beyond the national level, and look at the examples of good practices at the local level, and how migrants can contribute to local communities, e.g. through their skills”.

The intergovernmental negotiation process on the Global Compact on Migration, he reminded the audience, will start in February 2018, and demands that “listen to many different actors, especially those who implement migration laws and policies such as nurses, teachers and law enforcement”.

Stressing that on International Migrants Day, there is no better way to celebrate it than to present proposals on how to address the challenges affecting migrants, he emphasised the need for a whole-of-society and whole government approach and to listen to everyone.

Social dialogue

The point of departure in ensuring an effective whole-of society approach to managing migration is two-fold, Sinyolo explained:

(1) All governments, including those of host and transit countries, should ratify and fully implement the provisions of UN and International Labour Organisation (ILO) migrant, labour and other relevant Conventions.

(2) Governments should ensure the establishment of institutionalised mechanisms for social dialogue.

Genuine consultation and dialogue with migrant workers through their representative organisations, and trade unions in particular, is of paramount importance, given that most migrants move in search of decent work, he underlined.

The advocacy role and actions of trade unions, civil society, and other partners should not be under-estimated, Sinyolo said. These organisations have worked hard to ensure that migrants are not denied access to the basic necessities of life and public services such as health and education, or to justice due to their immigration status.

EI: Defending education rights of migrants and refugees

Education International has been working with national affiliates, youth organisations, students and local communities to defend and promote the education rights of migrant and refugee children and youth in several European and other countries, Sinyolo said.

Educators and their unions have long been fighting for undocumented children to have access to quality education and challenged their detention in camps, he said. EI has also provided training and professional development to local sand migrant and refugee teachers, so that they are able to meet the specific needs of migrants and refugees, including psychosocial support and language training.

“Education is the greatest antidote to the scourge of xenophobia, racism and discrimination as it can help inculcate and foster the values of intercultural understanding, respect, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.” Indeed, education equips migrant and refugee children and youth with the necessary skills for life and work, he said, emphasising that education should be at the core of the new Global Compact.

“The whole-of-society approach can only be achieved if all countries and governments take the lead in creating a migrant and refugee-friendly environment, both legislative and socio-economic,” he said. “We need to take bold and giant steps forward, with none of us stepping out or aside, because the global governance of migration is a mutual endeavour involving all sending, transit and destination countries.”

He concluded by stressing the need for the UN and governments to continue to involve trade unions and civil society in the intergovernmental negotiation process, prompting a response from the President of the UN General Assembly who announced that he would convene two more hearings/consultations in February and May 2018.