The National Tertiary Education Union condemns US president Donald Trump’s executive order suspending visas for nationals from seven Muslim majority countries. It shared the concerns raised by academic and university communities worldwide that this extreme order poses a direct threat to intellectual and academic freedom, and academic exchange and collaboration.
The union urged Australian university communities to condemn these attacks upon the free movement of students and staff.
A national petition was launched which calls on the leaders of Australian universities to support academic freedom, human rights and equity in diversity, by:

  • Taking a united public stand opposing the policies of the Trump administration that target international students or intellectual freedom and exchange in any way;
  • Supporting international students by opening more places, and funding extra scholarships, for students from countries barred by Trump.

See and sign this petition:

As part of its efforts to advocate for migrants’ and refugees’ rights in Spain, the Federación Estatal de Enseñanza de Comisiones Obreras (FECCOO) is carrying out a series of school-based capacity building projects, in collaboration with three education institutions in Catalonia, the Basque and the Valencian Communities. The different activities aim to sensitize and empower local communities, through teachers, students and parents’ associations, in order to promote a rights-based approach and a truly welcoming attitude towards displaced adult and children.

In Mislata (Valencia), the union collaborates with IES La Morería in a "photocall" initiative in which adolescents are given the opportunity to reflect on what it might be like to be a refugee, by putting on a life jacket and trying to express what they would feel if they had to flee their homes and their countries, risking their lives and leaving everything behind, including school experiences that can hardly be recovered. Through this activity, students get information, reflect and debate on the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. The entire school community of the IES La Morería is participating and the project team is planning similar activities outside the school, to multiply its impact on the broader local community.

Aware of the transformative power of education, with this kind of initiatives, FECCOO intends to support local teachers to mobilise their schools, communities and municipalities in favor of all refugees, forcibly displaced persons, stateless persons, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants.


By Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International

The Executive Order of President Donald Trump produced much heat, but little light. Many were outraged and incredulous that bigotry could become the official policy of the United States, but others were too angry to listen or to reason. EI has made its position, based on international law, clear.

Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament from the British nationalist party, UKIP, objected to criticism from the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini by saying that Mr. Trump campaigned on imposing those restrictions, was elected with that mandate and, a week later, he did so. He added, “that is democracy”.

Is it or isn’t it democracy? To reduce democracy to elections alone is misleading and dangerous. Constitutions and treaty obligations, and human rights, and consultations are also part of democracy.
The rights and treatment of refugees and migrants are global issues. It is not possible to hide behind national sovereignty or “America First” when it comes to questions that, by their very nature, are international.

António Guterres, the new Secretary-General of the UN expressed concerns and clearly described the international obligations of States:

“Countries have the right, even the obligation, to responsibly manage their borders to avoid infiltration by members of terrorist organizations.
This cannot be based on any form of discrimination related to religion, ethnicity or nationality because:
- That is against the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based;
- That triggers widespread anxiety and anger that may facilitate the propaganda of the very terrorist organisations that we all want to fight against;
- Blind measures, not based on solid intelligence, tend to be ineffective as they risk being bypassed by what are today sophisticated global terrorist movements."

The United States ratified the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of refugees which amended and improved the 1951 refugee Convention by eliminating geographic restrictions while maintaining the key provisions of the earlier instrument including not forcing refugees to return.

A comparison between provisions of the Executive Order and the Protocol reveals disregard for the international community and universal values.

Comparison shows incompatibility. While the executive order suspends the entry of nationals of Syria, neither discrimination by national origin nor by religion, is allowed by international standards.

“The Contracting States shall apply the provisions of this Convention to refugees without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin." --1967 Protocol relating to the Status of refugees

The application of the Order to seven predominantly Moslem countries with the possibility for exceptions for members of religious minorities, also clearly demonstrates discrimination based on religion and suggests that this is intended to be a long-term priority.

“…the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, is further directed to make changes, to the extent permitted by law, to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality. Where necessary and appropriate, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security shall recommend legislation to the President that would assist with such prioritization”. --2017 Executive Order "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the U.S."

In addition, the practices in the initial days of the Order included forced return of persons in danger.

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” --1967 Protocol relating to the Status of refugees

The Executive Order text, in addition to being wrong because it is based on nationality, shows how trumped up it is even based on its own logic. It justifies the restrictions by invoking the single largest terrorist attack in US history; the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. The perpetrators of that unspeakable crime included 15 citizens of Saudi Arabia. The others were from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon. They are not among the seven countries.

The US also ratified the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) in 1992. In doing so, it committed to treat individuals “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

This experience as well as disturbing trends in other countries reveals flaws in democracy. It also reminds us that, while it is difficult or impossible for democrats to survive and function in authoritarian regimes, authoritarians often thrive in democracies.

Demagogues with their simple “solutions” and their alternative truths are dangerous for democracy and rights. As Boris Yeltsin said, “We don’t appreciate what we have until it is gone. Freedom is like that. It’s like air. When you have it, you don’t notice it”.

Democracy should never be taken for granted; it must be defended every day and everywhere. The fight against those forces that poison democracy, including intolerance, takes courage and it requires education. And the mission of education is not confined to the four walls of the classroom.

Since Autumn 2016, five Swedish universities have started offering a new course for newly-arrived teachers and preschool teachers. The Swedish government launched this initiative to help new migrants with professional qualifications from their home countries integrate into the labour market in their host country, and obtain jobs in sectors where there is currently a shortage of workers.

The course comprises of theory and Swedish language classes at university, and a 26-week internship at a school or pre-school. Some parts of the course are given in Arabic, to ensure a quick understanding of the Swedish school system. This initiative can help contribute to a quick and successful economic and social integration of newly arrived migrant teachers, through educational and professional training.



Every day in 2015, around 17,000 children fled their homes due to persecution and conflict, according to Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) latest World Report, launched last week. While access to education is crucial for children’s physical and emotional well-being, for those living in emergencies going to school is often an impossible dream.

The report draws on United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s striking data, which shows that while half of the world’s 3.5 million refugee children of primary-school age attend classes, less than a quarter of the 1.95 million secondary-school-aged children have access to education. And it is worse for girls: globally, just seven girls for every 10 refugee boys go to secondary school.

Focus on primary education

While the record number of refugees and internally displaced people around the world has focused attention on the need to ensure that displaced children can enrol in school, humanitarian responses to crises have tended to focus on primary, rather than secondary, education, the report highlights.

An essay published alongside the report is thus entirely devoted to secondary education and examines the specific problems that it has to face in emergencies—especially where conflicts forcibly displace children. It goes on to offer solutions that host countries, donors, and humanitarian actors could adopt to promote and guarantee secondary education in aid-recipient countries affected by crises or large refugee flows.

Funding as problem and solution

At the root of these problems, and solutions, says the essay, are funding and refugee policies. It reveals that globally, less than two percent of donor support goes to education in emergencies; of that, far more goes to primary than secondary education. Also, it finds that inadequate resources coincide with restrictive refugee host-country policies that often hit children hardest just as they become adolescents.