Greece Tests ‘Education Passport’ For Refugees

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Grace Carr Reporter
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An international human rights organization is looking to provide education passports for refugees wishing to receive higher education and plans to test the efficacy of these projects in Greece.

The Council of Europe along with Norway, Britain, Greece and Italy’s national qualification centers have joined together in an effort to provide education passports that were initially introduced in Norway in 2015. The initiative comes after European officials declared 20 years ago that university studies should be evaluated fairly per the 1997 “Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region.”

Masoud Burhani — an Afghan refugee who fled from the Taliban in 2016 — met with the Ministry of Education in the Greek city of Skaramangas to support the project aiming to provide continued education opportunities to refugees, News Deeply reported Monday.

“I couldn’t continue my studies in Afghanistan because I had to make a living for my family,” said Burhani, a civil engineer. “But now I want to go to university.”

Burhani hopes he’ll be able to get a “European Qualifications Passport for Refugees,” which will not only certify his academic transcript but will also list language proficiency and professional work experience. Higher education institutions generally require applicants meet their own specific requirements, but the new passport initiative would make it easier for refugees to meet these requirements and transfer their work and education experience across borders.

Fourteen refugees were given qualifications passports in March, one of which was a 29-year-old Palestinian Syrian, Mahmoud Alkoko.

“When I first heard about this paper, I thought, this is what I need,” Alkoko said, adding that he had left his transcripts behind when he left the country in 2011. The initiative now aims to give all rather than just a few refugees these new passports.

The initiative has faced road blocks however, because administering education passports to refugees is not only expensive but also time consuming given that European countries have differing systems by which they process information as well as unique qualifications for admission into higher education programs. Refugees have typically waited months and or years before universities recognize their degrees or education qualifications.

If the “Education Passport” initiative succeeds, refugees will be issued a passport listing their qualifications a day or two after they have their interview for admission into the country as an asylum seeker. While the passport will not guarantee them any kind of entrance into a university, it will provide a clear break down of the skills that refugees possess with the hope that this resume of sorts will make it much easier for refugees to continue their education after fleeing their home countries.

As the law currently sits in Greece, refugees must get a bachelor’s and then take a national higher education entrance exam, meaning that refugees would also have to learn Greek in order to advance or continue their studies and professional work.

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