In a joint call with leaders of Australia’s major charities and social service groups, the Independent Education Union (IEU) is looking to change the government’s policy towards refugees and migrants in Australia.


The more than 200 signatories believe Australia needs a more “humane” approach to asylum seekers and in particular, should abandon its current offshore approach to processing applications for international protection. The call was issued following the adoption of a historic High Court ruling that declared the Malaysia refugee swap deal invalid.


The groups call for six different actions to be taken.  


The first one invites the major political parties to respect any type of implications of the ruling, including not sending asylum seekers “to uncertainty in other countries and (…) present[ing it] as a just or credible response to the needs of people seeking refuge and protection in Australia”.


The next action is for the Australian government to use this ruling to change the debate about the refugee crisis.  They also want the Australian Government to rule out offshore processing and mandatory detention, and allow these asylum seekers to be put into communities until they hear their decisions.


Another request is to process all asylum seekers onshore, instead of spending money deporting people overseas.


The last two points are to increase Australia’s refugee and humanitarian intake in the region, by resettling 4000 Malaysian refugees and continuing to work towards a regional solution for the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.


The call is available on IEU’s website:


In a public event organized on 29 May 2017, the Bremen Education Union (GEW – LV Bremen) and the Bremen Refugee Council (Flüchtlingsrat Bremen) have criticised the lack of school places for hundreds of young refugees in Bremen. Despite the right to an education, and the legal requirement under German law to attend schools, these 6 to 18 year olds are not allowed to go to school. Instead, they face months in separate 'welcome classes' or are taught inside initial refugee accommodation by 'camp-teachers.' Other children wait for weeks or months for a place at a school. This 'dis-integration' instead of integration, has been strongly criticised by the GEW and Refugee Council.

The high level of new arrivals in the 2015 /6 school year could explain this situation. However, the end of the 2016 /17 school year sees the unfair treatment of refugee children and their exclusion from the mainstream school system becoming systemic. Significant investment is needed now, to provide enough school places and the necessary action against staff shortages so that this unfair treatment and lack of access to the education system is brought to an end.

According to the education authorities there are currently some 100 children and young people – for example in the initial accommodation center in Linden Strasse and in the emergency accommodation facility in the Falken Strasse who get a maximum of 2 hours of schooling a day from a 'camp teacher'. In Bremerhaven, the AWO (a charity) runs more than 20 so called 'Welcome Classes' for (more than 200) children without a school place. Despite the legal requirement to attend school existing in Bremen from the first day – the duty and therefore the right to an education applies for refugee children too, registering for a school place takes place after moving out of the initial accommodation center. This state of play cannot be allowed to become the rule. Instead, an accelerated placement within the mainstream education system should be the aim.

“The current practice breaks the law in multiple ways” according to Marc Millies from the Bremen Refugee Council referring both to state laws and EU legislation. The education authorities in Bremen claim that this exclusionary practice is 'educationally based' and is only temporary anyway. Simultaneously, the authorities admit that the rule of a maximum wait in the initial accommodation centers of only 3 months is regularly overrun. The new law which was agreed to by the Bundesrat on the 2nd of June ( "Gesetz zur besseren Durchsetzung derAusreisepflicht" – “Law to improve compliance with departure orders”) will allow refugee families to be held for up to two years in initial accommodation centers – for example in Bremen Vegesack. In line with the current practice, this would mean that the exclusion of some refugee children from the education system would become long term.


   In March 2016, the European Union signed an agreement with Turkey to reduce the number of refugees arriving in Greece and heading to other parts of Europe. Because of this, thousands of refugees and migrants are stuck in Greek refugee camps all over the country, facing huge difficulties to process their application for international protection in Europe. About 39 Migrants and refugees are continuing to land in Greek islands each day (p.7), where they end up living in very poor, “detention-like” conditions. Of the 13,200 asylum seekers on the islands, more than 5,000 are children. 

The report  “A TIDE OF SELF-HARM AND DEPRESSION: The EU-Turkey Deal’s devastating impact on child refugees and migrants” goes on to discuss the physical and psychological effects these living conditions have on children, including depression and anxiety, self-harm and suicide, increase in aggressive behavior, family breakdowns, and the negative effects of smuggling and trafficking. According to a staff of Save the Children, “Children are very resilient, but so many of their basic needs are not satisfied in the hotspots. They have lost so many months of school, of normal life and of routine”. Throughout the report’s recommendations, the organization calls upon the Ministry of Migration Policy and the Ministry of Education to  “ensure the access of all children stranded in Greece to the formal schooling system, regardless of their legal status” (p. 5). 

   Indeed, children in these “hotspots” are not growing up in areas where they can develop properly and live like any other child should. Save the Children has created Child-Friendly Spaces where all children are welcomed to go and be in a more hospitable area. However, with every other area in the camp, there is nothing normal to their living habits and conditions. One Praksis staff member stated that “Children in the hotspots are without a “normal” schedule. They don’t wake up at a certain hour, get ready, go to school. For children to develop, they need this type of predictability to feel safe. They need a routine that guides their development and emphasizes areas that need to be developed…They stay up late at night, they sleep until noon. They spend a lot of time around adults who are stressed and frustrated. This is not normal for their development” (p. 11). 

As a result, children in these environment start to become more aggressive, depressed, and turn to things like self-harm and suicide. When children only see violence and protest around them, they tend to mimic these qualities and tend to become more aggressive in order to defend themselves in such a dangerous environment. As well as this transformation of becoming more aggressive, children become more depressed. As said the report, at first children would draw colorful pictures, but the longer they spent there, they became more dark. When they are surrounded by things like dead bodies and people crying daily, it takes an emotional toll on them.

Staff members also see children turning to self-harm and suicide in order to escape reality. They start cutting themselves and imitating adults committing suicide.

According to the report, when looking at future integration for these children, it will be more difficult for them to transition back to a “normal” life. These hotspots affect some of the most important developmental periods of a child’s life and that can affect how they act for the rest of their lives. They only way children can start recovering from this, is if they are taken out of these poor conditions. 

The UK’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis means that at least 20,000 refugees from that conflict will arrive between now and 2020.  Many will be resettled in communities that have never hosted refugees before.  Every single resettled refugee will have a connection to a school, as only families are eligible for the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Programme.  Schools thus become crucial places of welcome, orientation and integration for refugee families.   

Citizens UK developed the Refugee Welcome School concept with one of its member schools, Saint Gabriel’s College, a Church of England secondary school in South London in 2016.  A further 35 schools soon expressed an interest in replicating the model.  In a project supported by Education International, NASUWT decided to join forces with Citizens UK to promote Refugee Welcome Schools.

Refugee Welcome Schools is an accreditation scheme to recognise schools that have made a commitment to welcome refugees in their institution and community, educate all their pupils and staff about the importance of refugee protection over the course of a year, and participate in campaigns to improve the lives of refugees in the UK.  

In order to become a Refugee Welcome School, schools should provide detail of a Refugee Welcome Plan, a Refugee Learning Plan, and a Refugee Action Plan that will be examined by a Refugee Welcome Schools Panel, made up of teachers, educationalists, trades unionists, children and refugees themselves. 

Accredited Refugee Welcome Schools are encouraged to display their accreditation certificate prominently, and are welcome to use the logo on materials. 

Both organisations have jointly produced a “Refugee Welcome School Support Pack” aiming to provide information and assistance to schools willing to apply and become part of the Refugee Welcome Schools Network.


With the recent election, came negative views towards undocumented immigrants entering and living in the United States. Last October, a group of associations and educators from different states in the US, including EI affiliates NEA and AFT, came together to develop extensive training targeting educators from around the country on how to launch the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA. This program creates “deferred action” of the removal process from the United States of undocumented young people. Any undocumented person who is currently in school, has graduated high school or obtained a GED (General Education Development) is eligible for DACA relief [1].

Such volunteer trainings have been set up across the nation to properly learn how to review undocumented students applications and make sure they meet all of the requirements. Through extensive training run by immigration attorneys, volunteers fill out mock applications, learn different techniques from these lawyers regarding examining the application, and learn about different grant opportunities. 

One specific grant that is focused on is the National Education Association’s Minority Community Organizing & Partnership grant opportunities, which have helped fund DACA clinics throughout the nation. Education Austin which benefitted from this grant to organize a campaign focusing on informing the community in Austin about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, developed a toolkit to help other unions to organize DACA Forums and Clinics in their communities.

[1] More information about DACA is available here.