Two weeks ago the Central European University (CEU) announced it was being forced to suspend its education programmes for refugees and asylum seekers because of new tax legislation that came into effect on August 24. The law implies a 25% levy on “all programmes, actions and activities which directly or indirectly aim to promote immigration” including anything “showing immigration in a positive light.”
At present counting, around 55 refugees and asylum seekers will be affected by this change.
The University also had to suspend, with immediate effect from August 24, the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve), and the administration of its European Union-funded Marie Curie Research Grant on migration policy in Central and Southern Europe.
The opinions of those at the University having to make this move still come through their diplomatically phrased statement: “CEU takes this opportunity to emphasize, once again, that the OLIve programs have provided educational training only for persons legally admitted to Hungary. We are proud of this work and of our research on refugee and migration issues in Europe and will seek all possible ways to continue this work in the future.”
While Hungary may already have joined the US in refusing to sign up to the Global Compact on safe migration, calling it a “threat to the world”, it had already signed up to the New York Declaration, committing to
… provide quality primary and secondary education in safe learning environments for all refugee children, and to do so within a few months of the initial displacement. … Access to quality education, including for host communities, gives fundamental protection to children and youth in displacement contexts, particularly in situations of conflict and crisis.
Similarly, the Global Compact on Refugees, says that:
States and relevant stakeholders will contribute resources and expertise to expand and enhance the quality and inclusiveness of national education systems to facilitate access by refugee and host community children (both boys and girls), adolescents and youth to primary, secondary and tertiary education.
In Hungary, all asylum-seeking families with children and unaccompanied children above age 14 have to stay in one of two transit zones on the border with Serbia while their applications are processed. Children in these transit zones have no access to education except that provided by civil society organizations
A signatory to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, too, it is a shame to see Hungary stray so far from the ambitions to “leave no one behind”.
There is no doubt that migration and displacement have large political connotations, which are often seen as processes, rather than as being about people. At the same time, it is disturbing to see immigration being hounded, when there is evidence is that migration is a source of human progress.
Our forthcoming Report on this issue will lay out the huge opportunities being missed by neglecting migrants and refugees right to an education. It will emphasize that denying them education can build walls between them and native populations, at the worst fostering marginalisation and. It will lay out multiple examples to show why this move in Hungary is the wrong decision, and taking us away from, rather than towards progress.