World Refugee Day: Honouring Strength and Resilience of Young Refugees

Youth Time joins with other activists and organisations marking June 20, the World Refugee Day.

Honouring refugees around the globe, we interviewed Together Moving Forward (TMF), volunteers in charge of the communications aspects of the campaign: Students and Youth in action for World Refugee Day 2021

TMF is a small grants programme run by European Students’ Union (ESU), aiming at building positive refugee-host interactions across Europe. 

Despite their tight schedules these days, Rosa Areal Madeiros, Joana Miraldes, Alaa Alzailaa, and Fanchon Lefevre spare some of their time and spoke to Youth Time regarding the importance of this day, emphasising the role of higher education in youth refugees’ wellbeing and also the contribution of the TMF programme, which over the past six years has supported more than 50 local, students and youth-led projects in more than 25 European countries.

 

Building a Better, Fairer Future for Young Refugees 

Initially, Madeiros spreads a message, while recalling that only 3% of people with refugee backgrounds have access to higher education.

“This is something that should concern us all. We want to encourage the debate on the barriers and challenges faced by these people when accessing, taking part and succeeding in tertiary education. 

“For a sustainable future, higher education plays a key role. When promoted to move forwards, education enriches both individuals and communities.”

She says that we must equally assure all students and youth of their right to access and take part in education. 

World Refugee Day Honouring Strength and Resilience of Young Refugees 2
Standing Together: World Refugee Day is marked right around the world

However, for people with refugee or migrant background, it is important to fight for additional legislative, institutional and social efforts to make this happen. 

“In order to move in this direction, people must know certain facts and figures we take for granted in Europe, do not apply to people of migrant and refugee backgrounds. 

“By spreading information and promoting the debate we want to work for a better, fairer future.”

 

Action for World Refugee Day

This year in order to honour World Refugee Day, ESU and Voices of Young Refugees Europe (VYRE) got together to make something special, by co-hosting the Students and Youth in Action for World Refugee Day. 

Joana Miraldes is the second person from the team speaking and elaborating more on this. 

“Six months ago we gathered a group of 15 volunteers from different parts of the globe currently living in Europe, with different backgrounds and expertise.”

In this way, gathering a team of young people interested in looking at the present and future of education for migrants and refugees on the continent. 

Under this project, they have created and promoted a fund to support 11 local and youth-led activities in Europe, with 500 euros each. 

“Thanks to these projects, we are not only talking about access to education, but they encourage us to take action. Since acting at a local level, the projects often tackle region-specific questions, problems and therefore solutions.” 

Last but not least, they are organising an online event happening tomorrow, Tuesday 22nd June. Everyone is welcome to join, as the only requirement is to register here.

 

Higher Education Not a Privilege 

Whereas, Alzailaa believes that by accessing higher education and university many young people can develop not only knowledge on a specific field but also create friendship, develop critical mindset, build projects, develop language skills and finally feel better integrated in the host society.

“We see higher education not as a privilege but as a right that independently of origin or legal status everyone should have access to.”

It is important to keep in mind that students are not always young and the name chosen for the campaign – Students and Youth in Action for World Refugee Day, reflects this. 

“When we talk about either forced or voluntary migration, it is not uncommon to find cases where previous education is not recognised at the country of arrival. Imagine a student that, unable to prove the legitimacy of their studies, is forced to start from zero.”

This may be just an example, but this could happen right now in your own town.

In a nutshell, these volunteers want to raise awareness, provoke the debate and look for solutions on migration and education in Europe.

“By listening and encouraging youth to take an active role, we all have something to win. However, unfortunately, resources and funding programmes for youth (and particularly young refugees) to encourage them to become active citizens are lacking. Lack of trust and administrative burdens remain way too high and very unequal depending on the countries,” Alzailaa adds.

 

The Together Moving Forward Journey 

TMF is targeting primarily youth and student-led projects, which obviously also include young people of refugee and migrant backgrounds, and Fanchon Lefevre, TMF Programme Manager says for Youth Time that the DNA of TMF is to give the power and the freedom to students to develop their own projects and ideas, and to learn from experience. 

“The student to student approach has proven brilliant results in supporting young people in applying to University, developing language skills and building friendships, proposing cultural activities, etc.”

The motto “nothing about us without us” is crucial in the TMF programme: it encourages all projects to fully include young people of refugee and migrant backgrounds in the decision-making processes.

“We also highly support young people in exile to develop their own projects. 

“It is a reality: it is often very complex for young people of migrant backgrounds to register an NGO, open a bank account, receive public funding, etc.”

As ESU is a student-led organisation, they saw the TMF programme as a chance to encourage young people in exile to build their capacities and develop their own initiatives to raise their voice.

“By developing “your” own project, you develop thousands of skills that can help you to be better integrated in the host society, develop self-confidence, increase your network and knowledge of the administrative procedure, etc.”

Very few funding programmes exist supporting recently created and youth-led organisations working on migration, which makes the TMF programme unique. 

“Often young people of migrant and refugee backgrounds are proposed to be “participants” to the project, not project leader. This is something that we want to change with TMF, and we managed.”

In six years the TMF programme has built a community of extremely active students (including the volunteers in charge of the Campaign for World Refugee Day), eager to change the current state of play and to support inclusive education systems and European society. 

From the selection committee, to the campaigners and implementation of the local activities, the programme is 100% student-led, for students to students. 

TMF would not have been this successful without its dedicated team of volunteers. Stay updated on their call for volunteers, and join this amazing movement.

Photos: TMF


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