As we start to work with the new European legislature, we were heard on October 15 in the European Parliament on access to education for undocumented children and youth.
The public hearing concerned access to education for migrants, regardless of status, and was organised by the European Trade Union Committee for Education and the European Federation of Education Employers. The meeting was hosted by Italian MEP Pierfrancesco Majorino (S&D).
At the hearing, our Advocacy Officer Laetitia Van der Vennet contributed our perspective on undocumented children and youth, who face specific legal and practical barriers in accessing education.
Only ten European countries explicitly provide that the right to education includes all children, regardless of their residence permit. However, laws often only grant access to compulsory education, which prevents undocumented children from accessing non-compulsory education, including early childhood education and care (which is crucial in mitigating the impact of social exclusion and poverty), vocational training and in several countries, education after the age of 16. In other cases, undocumented children cannot benefit from financial support or grants, which creates additional financial barriers.
Schools, teachers, their federations and unions can play an important role in changing the situation for the better. For instance, they can register children based on declared information instead of proof of residence status. They can also ensure that personal information of children or their parents is never shared with immigration authorities, thereby keeping a relationship of trust with the child and their family and ensuring that the child continues their education. Joint advocacy can also push for changes in law, allowing for children to access non-compulsory education, vocational training and traineeships.
Other participants to the hearing included COFACE Families Europe, Red Cross EU, SOLIDAR and EUROCHILD.