Back to School is not for Every Child: Undocumented Children Still Excluded


BRUSSELS, 4 SEPTEMBER 2017 – As students begin the new school year across Europe, undocumented migrant children are often still excluded from going to school or prevented from completing their education.

Undocumented children are often denied school registration, or not allowed to take exams or get certificates for the studies they complete. Secondary school after the age of 16 and vocational training is almost always off limits. There are also risks that school authorities will report children and their families to immigration authorities and they will be arrested.

Miloš* who is 13-years old and undocumented, living with his grandparents in Austria, said how important a school education is for his and his family’s future:

“My wish is to become a car mechanic, why? Because if I finish my professional training, I could work anywhere as a car mechanic. My biggest wish is to finish school and that we sort everything here so I can help my grandma and grandpa.”

Natalia is 21-years old, has finished middle school in the Netherlands but cannot fulfil her dream of going to university because she is undocumented:

“It was a big disappointment since I have worked hard many years to get good grades and be able to go to university. In the Netherlands, middle school is divided in levels. When I finished primary school, they sent me to the lower levels because my parents were immigrants and that was enough to decide that I wouldn’t have capacity for more. Many teachers told me the same thing during middle school. During all my life here in Holland, I have had to fight to prove the contrary. Little by little I was able to make it to higher levels.”

International frameworks that all EU member states have signed, guarantee access to education to all children, regardless of residence or migration status. Policymakers, school administrations, teacher unions and teachers themselves should make sure that access to education is granted to all children and schools are safe places for all children.

Notes to editors

*To read Miloš’ and Natalia’s full stories and the testimonies of other undocumented children and youth, click here. The collection of testimonies is also available in French and Spanish. Share Miloš’ and the other children’s stories #BackToSchool #ShareYourStory

  • See also: Protecting undocumented children-Promising policies and practices from governments, PICUM 2015.
  • The European Commission published a communication in April 2017 on the protection of children in migration which encourages member states to provide education to all migrant children, regardless of resident status as well as other crucial services such as health care and psychosocial support.
  • Watch a web documentary showing the realities of undocumented children and their families in Europe.


Elisabeth Schmidt-Hieber
PICUM Communications Officer
+32 2 210 1780

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