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UNIMED’s commitment towards Refugees Crisis In the MENA Region: two meetings in Lebanon for new solutions and future actions

UNIMED’s engagement towards the refugees crisis and the consequences for MENA Higher Education System is a continuous commitment. This constantly changing crisis is putting these countries (from Turkey to Lebanon, including Jordan and Iraq plus Egypt) under a tremendous pressure even if a return process in Syrian is becoming a de facto reality.

In any case this crisis will last for the next years and new solutions are required in order to face this enormous challenge, considering education as a fundamental element for providing solutions to this crisis for the mutual benefit of both refugees and hosting communities.

In this framework, UNIMED will participate in the Higher Education and Refugees in the Mediterranean region Conference which will take place on 26 and 27 September 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Beirut-Lebanon. This event is jointly organized by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) and the HOPES project “Higher and Further Education Opportunities and Perspectives for Syrians” (http://www.hopes-madad.org/) funded by the European Union’s Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis, the ‘Madad Fund’ and implemented by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the British Council, Campus France and Nuffic. This conference will gather more than 100 participants and will focus on the impact of the Syrian crisis on the higher education systems of neighbouring countries, while addressing various examples of higher education systems facing similar challenges in Europe and in other Southern Mediterranean countries.

Immediately after this conference, on the 27th and 28th of September, 2017, the Lebanese University will host the first partnership meeting of the Refugees Education Support in mena CoUntriEs – RESCUE project (https://www.rescuerefugees.eu)  funded by the ERASMUS+  Capacity building for Higher Education programme of the European Union. Since its inception in early 2017, the project has made significant progress in analysing in detail the specific needs and constraints of the seven partner Universities in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq (KRG) when dealing with refugee and Internally Displaced students willing to resume their training paths. This analysis was carried out through paper questionnaires and on the occasion of three extensive site visits in the target countries performed by the staff of the European partners accompanied by a representative of AArU the Association of Arab Universities. During these visits, not only the relevant Universities were interviewed, but other important stakeholders such as local NGO’s and public institutions were consulted.

All this information has then been analysed and elaborated in a comprehensive report which will be published soon. The report confirms the fact that it is virtually impossible to design a common set of solutions which would fit all the partner Universities. In fact, some common issues have been identified such as:

  • The need for language courses;
  • The need for the recognition of prior learning (to different degrees of severity in the various Higher education Systems);
  • The need for financial support to students (in terms of spreading awareness about existing opportunities)
  • The need for Psychological support.

Other issues such as legal support and the provision of VET courses are less homogeneously spread but present in many Universities.

In parallel to this, a set of best practices in the area of interest of the project have been collected and are being compiled in a report to be published in the forthcoming days. These will be used as a basis for designing and implementing individual action plans for each partner University.