18th December 2023
The United Nations (UN) estimates that 281 million people live outside their country of origin, 15% of whom are children. Individuals have always moved in search of new, better life opportunities. On International Migrants Day, Broken Chalk celebrates migration as humanity’s inherent and fundamental characteristic. Education is both a powerful tool for integration into host societies and a driver for migration, with families migrating to seek better educational opportunities for their children and thousands of young people migrating annually to pursue university degrees.
In situations of displacement, children and young people often experience difficulties accessing education, especially if they have an uncertain legal status. Schools are often compelled by migration authorities to detect, detain and deport undocumented migrant children and their families. Schools might also refuse to enrol migrants. However, the legal principle of non-discrimination establishes that all persons residing in the territory of a state, regardless of their legal status, must be guaranteed access to education. Broken Chalk calls for respect for the principle of non-discrimination to the right to education, regardless of a person’s legal status.
Denial of access to education, discrimination, or bullying is often a reflection of xenophobic and racist attitudes in the host country. Education must be recognised as a powerful driver for social cohesion, where children from diverse backgrounds coexist from an early age. Moreover, schools must address discrimination and bullying towards foreigners, and policies must ensure equal access to opportunities. In addition to this, migrant teachers should have their qualifications recognised so they can actively use their first language to help newcomers integrate. For instance, the EU Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027 acknowledges the need for more recognition of foreign qualifications. Broken Chalk highlights that a lack of effective integration, as well as forms of discrimination towards newcomers, can result in school drop-out, which might lead to social exclusion and have lifelong consequences.
The 2030 Agenda recognises migrants as a vulnerable group whose rights must be addressed and must be empowered persons. While migration might be seen as a stage of growth for some, for others, migration could be due to the adverse effects of conflict, climate change, and labour markets. Within the sustainable development goals, target 10.7, “reduce inequality in and among countries” to “facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”, is a direct reference to migration. This Sustainable Development Goal provides an opportunity for mobile populations to be empowered. By investing in their empowerment, we cultivate beneficial persons for their personal growth and for the greater good of humanity. Broken Chalk urges countries to be diligent and execute carefully formulated and well-administered migration policies.
Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), most children migrate irregularly. Irregular child migrants are at a heightened risk of being subject to trafficking, sexual exploitation, detention or being engaged in informal labour. In 2019, ASEAN leaders adopted the ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration and subsequently implemented the Regional Plan of Action. This laid out core principles to address the vulnerabilities faced by children in the context of migration. The initiative by ASEAN encompasses collective action to strengthen national systems for children in matters including but not limited to child protection, education, psychosocial support, health, safe environment and justice. Broken Chalk appeals to leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders to pay heed to the voices of migrant children and make informed decisions for the future.
We must take a pledge to provide them with the tools not only to survive but to thrive in their journey across borders. This International Migrants Day, let the term migrants be synonymous with resilience, innovation and, most importantly, global empowerment.
Broken Chalk announces it to the public with due respect.