Today, there are more refugees in the world than at any other time in history. The scale of displacement and the duration of displacement is also consistently increasing – from 43.3 million in 2009 to 70.8 million in 2018, a record high – according to UNHCR.
WUSC is committed to supporting solutions and increasing the number of durable solutions for refugees available globally. Bringing 40 plus years of experience and success with the Student Refugee Program (SRP), we work with other countries and relevant stakeholders to develop and enhance complementary education pathways for refugee students. Demonstrating the results of Canada’s SRP model has helped inspire and mobilize others in the post-secondary education space around the world. Our Building Educational Pathways for Refugees: Mapping a Canadian peer-to-peer support model is now available in English, French and Spanish, helping to share key learnings and considerations for education pathways with other stakeholders.
This past year, with support from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) Migration Policy Development Program (MPDP) grant, WUSC has worked with a newer organization in Mexico (Diálogo intercultural de México Activo) to provide support for the expansion and sustainability of their current post-secondary education pathway — Proyecto Habesha.
Mobilizing students in Mexico to support education for all
Proyecto Habesha launched in 2015 as a pilot humanitarian response to the Syrian refugee crisis, providing 20 Syrian students with an opportunity to continue their studies in Mexico. The success and warm welcome of the project by Mexican students and the post-secondary education community led to a desire to do even more!
WUSC has been sharing technical experience and resources in supporting Proyecto Habesha to build capacity, increase sustainability, and identify and strengthen the critical elements required to scale this education pathway.
In Canada, one of these critical elements is the ongoing commitment, leadership and involvement of students on campuses across the country. Our Student Refugee Program is currently supported by over 1,000 students who form our WUSC Local Committees. These committees are responsponsible for providing critical academic and social support to newly arrived students, as well as raising awareness for the cause on their campus and in their community.
Staff from Proyecto Habesha saw this first hand when they participated in WUSC’s annual Leadership Meeting where 100 WUSC Local Committee leaders gather to enhance their skills and exchange with their peers. Proyecto Habesha returned to Mexico with training materials, and soon after, held their own leadership meeting to convene and train Mexican students. Project representatives from Mexico will also be attending the 2020 International Forum to learn more about WUSC’s model, and adapt and replicate it into Proyecto Habesha, where applicable.
Fostering improved and safe migration processes for refugees
Through this collaboration, Proyecto Habesha is also working to adapt certain components of its work to not only grow the opportunities offered to refugee students each year, but also, to improve processes and procedures that enable the safe migration of refugees from their country of asylum to Mexico.
Another way that Proyecto Habesha is working towards this goal is to build the capacity of student groups and their post-secondary institutions to advocate for more education opportunities and foster more welcoming communities for refugees, much like our Student Refugee Program.
Building bridges to respond to the global refugee crisis
Earlier this month, WUSC and Proyecto Habesha put together a high-level conference in Mexico to explore how universities can help advance the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees. There were approximately 70 participants in attendance, including senior representatives of university administrations, government ministries, students and NGO leaders.
The conference brought together various Mexican stakeholders to discuss lessons learned from Canada and the Student Refugee Program, and to incorporate these lessons into programming that would expand education pathways for refugees. Delegates are now looking at how collaborative action can expand education pathways in Mexico for refugees who currently reside outside the country and how refugees already in Mexico can be better supported to continue their studies. We, at WUSC, look forward to continue supporting Proyecto Habesha and other similar initiatives to eliminate barriers that refugees face in accessing education.