EU, IOM Help 2,500 Refugee, Migrant Children to Attend Greek Schools

Posted: 
03/03/17
Themes: 
Migration and Youth, Refugee and Asylum Issues

Greece - The European Union (EU) is backing a special education programme that is helping 2,500 refugee and migrant children go to school in Greece. IOM provides transport and bus escorts who accompany the children from their accommodation to the nearest Greek schools.

Working with the Greek Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, IOM also provides them with school kits, including notebooks, pens, pencils and other educational materials. The escorts accompany the children on the buses and make sure that their daily commute to school is safe and organized.

According to IOM Greece, it now has 61 school buses taking the children from accommodation centres to 94 nearby schools on a daily basis.  

Escorts working at the Eleonas Accommodation Centre in Athens report that the children are enthusiastic students. “There were children running barefoot, shoes in hand after the prayer, so they would not miss their school bus. They wanted to stay at school even after the end of their courses.”

Of the 2,500 migrant and refugee children now going to school in Greece, over 1,000 children from 11 accommodation facilities on the Greek mainland have joined the school system since the start of 2017.  Thousands more are following informal courses in camps and urban settings.

“Four months ago, we were facing the alarming reality that thousands of migrant and refugee children in Greece were not attending school, compounding the hardships they have had to face.  Today, it is  heartwarming to see a much more positive picture as the number of children who attend school is now into the thousands and continues to grow,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. “We greatly appreciate the support from the EU and our partners in Greece, and look forward to continuing to ensure that all migrant and refugee children are in school,” he added. 

“Following the adoption of a new legal framework by the Greek Parliament in August 2016, access to education for refugee children of school-going age has improved significantly. The European Commission is helping the Greek authorities carry out this fundamental task by co-financing the transport of children to schools and the distribution of school kits with a total of EUR 2.8 million in EU Emergency Support,” said Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management. “This comes on top of our support to informal education activities for over 9,000 refugee children in Greece,” he added.

The reaction from the parents has been very positive and many have expressed great relief that their children are back in school.

“I am very happy for my children because education is very important,” says Hiyfat, who fled Aleppo with her husband and her three children a year ago.

Her 10-year-old daughter, Sara, adds: “I went to school in Syria for almost a year. I love that I’m starting again. I would like to study English, to learn every language in the world! It would be nice to do some drawing and to make new friends too.”

The programme is part of IOM’s Multi-sectoral Assistance to and Protection of Migrants and Refugees Stranded in Greece programme.

For more migrant stories from Greece, please go to: https://goo.gl/MhHD7J

For further information, please contact IOM Greece. Christine Nikolaidou, Tel. +30 210-9919040 Ext 248, Email: cnikolaidou@iom.int or Ioannis Baveas, Email: ibaveas@iom.int or iomathenspi2@iom.int

Or contact the European Commission Spokesperson's Service. Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordujela, Tel. +3222965322, Email: carlos.martin-ruiz-de-gordejuela@ec.europa.eu

Refugee and migrant children on their way to school in Greece. Photo: IOM