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  • 1 University of Athens, Greece
  • 2 University of Athens, Greece

This article discusses governance strategies activated in Europe aiming to monitor migration and refugee flows. A central point to be made is that migrant policy is an essential component of the wider social policy, thus representing the type of welfare provision prevalent in each particular state. Moreover, it will be argued that, apart from the wider EU immigration and asylum policies, such as the successive Dublin regulations, which constitute major parameters governing mobility, welfare state traditions and systems act as steering mechanisms to mobility, directing and redirecting flows, as they foster motives for improved life conditions among migrants. Furthermore, refugee education policies will be examined in selected European countries, with a particular focus in frontier Greece. The article asserts that education, being part of the welfare state policies, plays a pivotal role in governing migration flows in twofold ways: first, facilitating and securing mobility strategies on the part of asylum seekers; second, attracting and recruiting labor force on the part of the aging European countries.

Abstract

This article discusses governance strategies activated in Europe aiming to monitor migration and refugee flows. A central point to be made is that migrant policy is an essential component of the wider social policy, thus representing the type of welfare provision prevalent in each particular state. Moreover, it will be argued that, apart from the wider EU immigration and asylum policies, such as the successive Dublin regulations, which constitute major parameters governing mobility, welfare state traditions and systems act as steering mechanisms to mobility, directing and redirecting flows, as they foster motives for improved life conditions among migrants. Furthermore, refugee education policies will be examined in selected European countries, with a particular focus in frontier Greece. The article asserts that education, being part of the welfare state policies, plays a pivotal role in governing migration flows in twofold ways: first, facilitating and securing mobility strategies on the part of asylum seekers; second, attracting and recruiting labor force on the part of the aging European countries.

Introduction

Migration, be it labor migration or displacement resulting from extreme poverty, environmental emergency, persecution due to political turbulence, conquest or war, is the most ubiquitous aspect of globalization indisputably challenging the power of the state to control its population (Held, McGrew, Goldblatt, & Perraton, 1999). Human mobility is of course organized and coordinated across space and time, since it presupposes major infrastructures of transportation, communication technologies, and institutions of regulation. In spite of any attempts at regulation, mobility predominantly involves cost, risk, uncertainty, and precarity, in several cases, human exploitation (from the pre-modern slave trade to contemporary human trafficking), trauma, and bereavement. Contemporary forms of migration regulation comprise international agreements and legal frameworks providing for definitions and categorizations of mobility (Long, 2013) and domestic policies including border controls, as well as systematization and digitalization of asylum and migration policy. In the European context, mobility discourses tend to be reserved for the legitimized intra-European “free movement” of skilled workers, whereas migration discourses are triggered when describing mobility of third country nationals (TCNs; van Ostaijen, 2017).

As a matter of fact, recent migratory flows reaching the European region correspond to a rather small segment of the overall displaced population, since 84% of the refugees worldwide remain in developing countries (Panizzon & van Riemsdijk, 2018). Nevertheless, migration and the refugee issue challenge dramatically the foundation principles of the European Union (EU) political and social integration model, putting the notion of solidarity among European states under question. Countries at the Mediterranean frontiers, particularly Italy and Greece, are confronted with massive inflows of migrants and asylum seekers wishing to move to the prosperous European North. At the same time, refortification of borders, especially on the part of some EU states, entrap these populations during transition, thus “leaving asylum seekers in limbo” (Brekke & Brochmann, 2014).

This article discusses governance strategies activated in Europe aiming to monitor migration and refugee flows. Drawing upon the findings of an international research project (Council of Europe [CoE], 2018) that has been conducted in six countries (Bulgaria, Greece Hungary, Montenegro, Poland, and Romania), it will focus on policies aiming at the educational inclusion of asylum seekers in Greece (Zambeta et al., 2017). A central point to be made is that migrant policy is an essential component of the wider social policy, thus representing the type of welfare provision in each particular state. Moreover, it will be argued that, apart from the wider EU immigration and asylum policies, such as the successive Dublin regulations, which of course constitute major parameters governing mobility, welfare state traditions, and systems act as steering mechanisms to mobility, directing, and redirecting flows, as they foster motives for improved life conditions.

Furthermore, refugee education policies will be examined in selected European countries, with a particular focus in Greece as a frontier and gateway to Europe. The article argues that education, as a central component of the welfare state policies, plays a pivotal role in governing migration flows in twofold ways: first, facilitating, accelerating, or securing mobility strategies on the part of asylum seekers; second, attracting young and promising labor force on the part of the aging European countries.

Governing Mobility and the Refugee Flows in European Contexts

Recent migration and refugee flows challenge dramatically European unification policies. Attempts to address the refugee crisis as a pan-European issue have been confronted with growing ethno-nationalism in almost all European countries, but most notably in the countries of the so-called Visegrad group (The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia), which have refused to receive even a small number of refugees in their territory. Following persistent xenophobic attitudes in Hungary, denial of entry with the use of police is continuously reported in the border with Serbia (ibid). The iron fence in Röszke is presented as safeguarding the security of local population (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights [FRA], 2018b), but it questions the human condition and violates human rights. Similarly, asylum seekers are refused entry in the Polish borders with Belarus and Ukraine, while identification procedures end up in detention of people reported as violence victims (ibid). Border protection and closure on the part of the Visegrad group have created a deep rift within EU member states with serious implications for the frontier countries, such as Greece and Italy. In March 2016, the EU at an attempt to moderate immigration flows concluded an agreement with Turkey (European Union: Council of the European Union, 2016), which is the main route of immigration, particularly from Syria to Europe. This agreement has, periodically and partly, restrained flows, while it provided for a framework of refugee legal relocation to central and Northern Europe. The above agreement, however, has been proved exceedingly sensitive to the political tensions in the area, thus allowing a humanitarian issue to be subjected to the expediency of geopolitical dynamics and interests.

Since 2013, following the Dublin III EU regulations, the 28 EU member states (as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein) should be bound to apply the same fundamental principles regarding asylum application, on granting international protection status, relocation, and deportation policy. According to the Dublin regulation, only one country shall be responsible to examine an asylum seeker’s application, while persons are to be returned to the first country where they submitted their initial application. This principle imposes a disproportionally higher burden to European frontier countries, and particularly to Italy and Greece, which are the main gateways to Europe for people coming from Africa and Asia. Moreover, the Dublin regulation ignores the real preferences of refugees for relocation. As a matter of fact, living conditions, labor market, and integration policies prevailing in different EU countries develop incentives to refugees to move on in the North seeking for better life chances (Brekke & Brochmann, 2014). As it is demonstrated in a comparative study of asylum policy in Europe (Nonchev & Tagarov, 2012), there are considerable discrepancies in the way European countries grant protection to asylum seekers, in some cases applications are pending over many years, while legal aid to applicants remains poor in several reception centers (FRA, 2018a, 2018b). Asylum is more likely to be granted in cases of family reunification and to violence victims, especially those from Syria. According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) Afghani people are less likely to acquire refugee status and in several cases are deported (FRA, 2018a, p. 14). In principle, according to Article 24(2) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, children less than 18 years of age coming from countries non-providing safe environment are granted special protection, while any decision related to asylum and immigration procedures should take into account the best interests of the child. Unaccompanied children are entitled to international protection and guardianship. Several national bodies and NGOs are active in refugees’ settlement and integration, which nevertheless presents weaknesses even in the most advanced systems of social protection, such as Sweden (ibid).

The extent to which refugee and migration policies are part of the wider social policy could be seen as a controversial issue, especially challenged from a perspective that confines citizenship rights to national identity. Social policy is defined as an institutional form of social solidarity, compatible with a free market economy, which aims at the elimination of the most repulsive forms of inequality through redistribution of income (Sakellaropoulos, 2018; Stassinopoulou, 1996). Thus, the welfare state represents a collective investment, which facilitates and regulates access to the limited resources of a certain polity in the form of social services (Marshall, 1950). Solidarity and equity represent major political values that legitimize social policy at the national level, while simultaneously signify a society’s principles and potential for social integration. These values should bind modern states to include immigration in their social policies. Nonetheless, contemporary immigration and refugee flows seeking settlement in Europe have pushed European welfare regimes to their limits. Reception and integration policies are key governance mechanisms for monitoring immigration flows. As it happens, social attitudes and integration policies regarding refugees vary significantly (e.g., concerning access to citizenship, labor market integration policies, health care, housing, and education), thus revealing genuine structural differences among European states. Some of these significant differences could be understood as representative of the way the three ideal types of welfare regimes, as defined by Esping-Andersen (1990), respond to challenges arising from the refugee issue. Although contemporary states can partly share characteristics of all three types of welfare provision, some enduring elements of their political tradition as defined by Esping-Andersen could be identified in several social policies (see, e.g., gender policies in Bambra, 2007) as well as in their strategies on governing mobility.

The UK, for instance, as an ideal type of a liberal welfare regime, indeed adopts a laissez-faire and market-oriented system of newly arrived migrants’ integration. It has been argued that, for the most part of the 20th century, the UK has developed an image of a tolerant society, with altruistic sentiments toward refugees and a rather receptive asylum policy. The superiority of the host, implicit in the notion of compassion toward “people in need,” has been challenged by critical interculturalism in the 1990s (Pinson, Arnot, & Candappa, 2010; Rutter & Jones, 1998). Recent migration flows have stirred up anti-immigration rhetoric and populist discourses of criminalization of asylum seekers. In the turn of the 21st century, border controls have been tightened, while welfare provision for asylum seekers has been drastically restricted, a fact with significant implications to child poverty and human rights in general (Pinson et al., 2010). The uncertainty of inclusion prospect that this model implies at the same time acts as a moderator of refugee flows. Since 2010, and despite pro-Brexit rhetoric, the UK has actually received relatively smaller numbers of asylum applications compared to those of other Northern European countries, while it follows a rather decentralized and market-oriented approach to migrant integration, especially in England and Northern Ireland. Scotland, by contrast, follows a paradigm of nationally regulated integration policy (Scholten et al., 2017), thus seeking for convergence with Scandinavian rather than English welfare policies.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sweden, despite devolution policies that have relativized general regulation over the past three decades, remains a social democratic political culture of welfare provision, thus enabling a centrally coordinated policy regarding asylum seekers’ integration in employment, housing, and social care. Focus on quality as well as equity and universality of treatment are crucial elements of this approach, hence underpinning a receptive attitude toward mobility. In 2016, Sweden was the host of 12.4% of the overall asylum seekers in the EU (Scholten et al., 2017, p. 32). As a result of decentralization policies introduced in the 1980s, migrant policy is subjected to multilevel governance at the national and local level, sometimes followed by skepticism regarding their efficiency. Civic integration and language courses are offered at the reception centers, while several other schemes have been introduced since 2010 involving growing centralization, New Public Management approaches, and shifting responsibilities to the private sector. Civic introduction courses are a requirement for access to special social benefits. Housing policy is largely based on municipal responsibility and various multiple schemes, including free choice of accommodation for those who can afford to pay. Social integration is a primary concern of Public Employment Services, which attempt to match refugees’ profiles with local labor markets’ needs, thus linking accommodation to employment (ibid). Emergency healthcare, including special attention on trauma treatment (FRA, 2017), is universally provided for all asylum seekers, while children are entitled to free healthcare. Access to education is guaranteed similarly to that of nationals, despite on a voluntary basis.

Norway is on the same track concerning welfare state policies, a fact significantly affecting migrant integration strategies. Reception centers are coordinated by a central authority, while secondary integration programs include guaranteed housing and obligatory educational courses on language and job training. Attendees receive a reimbursement, which is higher than the basic welfare benefit. All legal residents have access to a wide array of social rights (Brekke & Brochmann, 2014, p. 149).

Germany applies a rather conservative model of welfare provision and adopts a regulated integration strategy for refugees based on assimilation policies and labor market inclusion of skilled labor. Over the past 5 years, Germany has been the largest receiver of refugees in Europe and has developed specific policies regarding reception and integration of immigrants. The extended industrial sector of the robust German economy seems willing to absorb highly skilled labor, a fact that acts as a selective mechanism among immigrants. The 2016 National Integration Act has consolidated the previously differentiated migrant policies among the federal states. Accession to labor market for asylum seekers is performed via apprenticeship, a field with a long-standing tradition in the country’s education and labor market policy. Premium healthcare of an emergency nature is generally provided, while employment is a precondition for public health insurance. Civic integration courses referring to German language and knowledge about German society are available to refugees and asylum seekers after a 6-month stay in the country. A variety of provisions at the regional level regulate entitlement to housing and education (Scholten et al., 2017).

Although Northern European countries govern mobility through general EU immigration policy (such as the Dublin III and the EU–Turkey agreements) coupled with their internal migrant integration policies, Southern countries are confronted with the reality of daily waves of new arrivals. Mediterranean countries, Greece and Italy in particular, actually become the embankment of migration flow to the north. However, arrivals in Spain are also on the rise.

The Mediterranean states are not part of the Esping-Andersen’s typology of welfare systems, while they are described as relatively immature welfare regimes compared to those of the North (Arts & Gellissen, 2001). Southern European countries are considered as sharing some common structural characteristics, such as a persistent gray economy and a peculiar coexistence of traditional social networks with a rather weak public welfare provision (Ferrera, 2005; Zambeta & Kolofoussi, 2014). Hence, without a solid social safety net and amidst a deep economic crisis, Greece was confronted with unprecedented influx of asylum seekers.

Immigration Policies and the Contemporary Migration Influx in Greece

Following the residual character of welfare state provision, immigration policy in Greece has been quite ambivalent and inconsistent. The first wave of immigration took place in the 1920s, after the Balkan wars, when Greece received more than 1.4 million refugees from the Balkans and especially Asia Minor, as a result of the Lausanne Treaty. Later, in the 1950s, around 350,000 people migrated to Greece from Istanbul. These inflows were mainly of Greek origin and were relatively easily integrated, a fact related to Greek foreign policy intents at the time, as well as with the positive impact these populations actually had on the economy and commerce. The weak industrial sector of the Greek economy did not encourage immigration. On the contrary, significant parts of Greek population emigrated to the USA, Germany, and Australia, especially around the mid-20th century. This trend was contained in the 1970s, after the oil crisis, when migration policy was tightened in several European states (Triandafyllidou, 2013). Moreover, Greek accession to the EU, in 1981, signaled a more favorable economic situation in the country.

The second wave of immigration is to a large extent irregular migration that took place after 1989, when Greece received large numbers of migrants, mainly from the former Soviet Union and central–eastern European countries, a trend later followed by inflows from Southern Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The largest share of this influx came from Albania. Significant sectors of the Greek economy that are labor intensive, such as construction, agriculture, tourism, as well as housework and domestic care of children and the older adults, and sectors largely participating in the gray economy offered employment opportunities to undocumented migrants (Lazaridis, 1996; Lymberaki, 2011; Triandafyllidou, 2009; Triandafyllidou & Veikou, 2002). This influx has genuinely contributed to the growth of the country’s GDP, which in turn facilitated the inclusion of Greece to the European Monetary Union in 2002. The Greek state has presented reluctance in dealing with this undocumented labor. The main policies focused on border controls and regularization measures, while naturalization and citizenship became part of the agenda only in mid 2000s. The number of registered immigrants holding a valid permit varies among different years, a fact that could be related to the mobility of this population. The highest number is reported in 2009 with 600,000 legal permits (Triandafyllidou, 2013, pp. 7–8). The economic crisis experienced in Greece since 2010 impacts data regarding migration, presenting a constant tendency of decrease in registered migrants, not necessarily because they have left the country, but possibly because they cannot satisfy the legal requirements on social insurance contributions, due to the growth of unemployment that disproportionally affects migrants.

The third and most recent wave of migration influx took place in 2010s, while the peak was in 2015. The main points of entry shift from the Northern borders of Greece to the Greek–Turkish border and the Aegean Sea. A large part of this inflow result from armed conflict in the Middle East. Based on the Dublin regulations, “hotspots” located in the Greek islands act as reception and identification centers for the newcomers who are legally defined as asylum seekers till their application is processed by the Asylum Service. According to the Greek authorities (Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information [MDPTI], 2018a), in 2018, Greece hosted 55,000 asylum seekers. Moreover, data from the Ministry of Migration Policy (2019) indicate that the number of asylum applications has dramatically increased within the past 5 years (Table 1). The vast majority of asylum seekers are male (68%), while 82% of the overall applicants are less than 35 years old. In January 2019, 5,339 unaccompanied minors were hosted in Greece.

Table 1.

Asylum applications in Greece during the period 2013–2019

June 7, 2013 to January 31, 2019
2013201420152016201720182019 (January)Total
Total4,8149,43113,18751,05358,64266,9695,529209,625
Monthly average6887861,0994,2544,8875,5815,5293,083

Note. Greek Ministry of Migration Policy, Asylum Service, Athens (February 7, 2019).

The largest share of applicants come from Syria (almost 30%), followed by Afghanistan (14.2%), Pakistan (12.4%), Iraq (11.4%), and Albania (4.5%). However, applications of Syrians present the highest recognition rates, whereas those from Albania and Pakistan have extremely low recognition rate. In total, in the period from 2013 to January 2019, 30,584 people were granted asylum in Greece, whereas 5,046 were granted subsidiary protection (Table 2).

Table 2.

First instance asylum application procedures 2013–2019

2013201420152016201720182019 (January)Total
Refugee statusa2291,2233,6472,4519,30612,6141,11430,584
Subsidiary protectionb934873472491,0452,5782475,046
Total admissions2,5808,49512,82026,90551,60846,2543,875152,537

Note. Greek Ministry of Migration Policy, Asylum Service, Athens (February 7, 2019).

aPeople who are granted the refugee status in Greece are entitled to remain in the country for 3 years, and have access to education, health care, the labor market, and social security and they can obtain travel documents as well. bSubsidiary protection is an international protection for persons seeking asylum who do not qualify as refugees. In European law, Directive 2004/83/EC defines the minimum standards for qualifying for subsidiary protection status. In Greece, people who are granted subsidiary protection are entitled to remain in the country for 3 years, and have access to education, health care, the labor market, and social security and have the opportunity to apply for travel documents.

Decisions on inadmissible cases at the first instance procedures of the Greek Asylum Service are due to applications that come under the “safe third country principle,” due to acceptance by another Member State of the Dublin regulation procedure and relocation of the applicant at another Member State of the Dublin agreement or for other procedural reasons (subsequent repeated applications or administrative reasons). The notion of “refugee” predominates in the contemporary political discourse and tends to overshadow that of immigrants. Categorization of applicants as refugees, who are entitled to asylum or international protection, or migrants, is of course a major governance strategy for controlling mobility flows. Moreover, it depicts the pitfalls and inadequacies of migrant integration policies, since migrants do not enjoy the privileges entitled to refugees (Long, 2013, Kapsalis, 2018).

Greece is mainly a transit country, since most of the asylum seekers wish to move to other European countries (mostly in Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden). However, the rise of asylum applications in Greece since 2017 demonstrates a possible change in this trend, which might indicate the refugee’s preference to terminate a long period of uncertainty and precarious mobility (Xypolytas, 2018). Countries that abide by the Dublin agreement participate in the relocation program, thus accepting to host certain numbers of asylum seekers that have entered EU through Greece. As it happens, relocation mainly refers to refugees coming from Syria. Family unification is a major principle governing relocation strategy.

While reception and identification centers have been established in the islands, longer-term accommodation centers are dispersed on the mainland. Nonetheless, overcrowded and in some cases inhumane conditions are reported in some of these centers, especially on the islands (FRA, 2018a). Apart from the emergency reception structures, housing policy is developed in collaboration among the Ministry of Migration, the UNHCR, and the municipalities (MDPTI, 2018a, 2018b). Unaccompanied children are accommodated in special structures run by NGOs, but these only partly cover existing needs. Emergency healthcare is offered by civil society organizations as well as by public health institutions. All children have been vaccinated according to the Ministry of Health, while education is generally provided on the mainland (ibid).

However, quality of reception and migrants’ integration remains a debated issue. The “Migrant Integration Policy Index” (MIPEX) is a tool assessing integration of migrants across European states as well as in some states outside Europe (such as Australia, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Japan, and the USA). It measures parameters considered as key components of migrant integration: access to citizenship rights, residence permit, labor market integration, political participation, anti-discrimination policies, family reunion policy, education, and healthcare. In 2014, Greece was ranked 17th out of the 38 countries participating in the MIPEX assessment of migrant integration policies (Anagnostou, 2016, p. 38). Greece was among the countries that are unfavorable to granting citizenship, even to second-generation migrants, slightly unfavorable with regard to educational integration and healthcare provision, half-way favorable in encouraging family reunion, and slightly favorable regarding anti-discrimination policies, (MIPEX, 2015). Although these indicators are quantitative, they are indicative in reflecting the social condition of migrants in the country. However, it should be noted that complicated social phenomena such as that of migrant integration could not be attributed to single causes and particular political measures. Hence, a deeper understanding of the issue presupposes assessment of the quality of integration measures that are promoted at the local level, both in metropolitan areas and in traditional neighborhoods (Anagnostou, 2016). Nonetheless, it is argued that although migration policy has been “employment-centered,” which means that regularization, long residence permits, and legalization have been based on registered employment, provision for equal rights in employment and public insurance is rather poor (Kapsalis, 2018). The notorious case of forced migrant labor in the agricultural sector that was brought against the ECHR (the case “Chowdhury and Others vs. Greece”), referring to Bangladeshi migrants who in 2012–2013 were subjected to compulsory work in strawberry fields in Manolada, under the supervision of armed guards, manifests the continuum between trafficking and inhumane labor relations and underlines the lack of a coherent migrant integration policy.

In Greece, the legal framework related to migrants’ citizenship status has a history of progress and retrogression. First- and second-generation immigrants who live and work in the country, paying social insurance benefits for more than 20 years, still do not enjoy full Greek citizenship rights. The radically favorable framework that was introduced in 2010 was repealed in 2013 by the Council of State (the supreme administrative court), as violating the constitution, since it was considered as not guaranteeing the applicant’s genuine bond with Greek culture (Anagnostou, 2016, p. 27). A more favorable legal framework regarding the acquirement of Greek citizenship was reintroduced in 2015 (Law 4332/2015), by taking into account the Council of States reservations and recommendations. The new legal framework (a) gives Greek citizenship to children of TCNs who have been born in Greece, (b) allows children of TCNs who have attended Greek school for at least 6 years of secondary education (or 9 years of primary and secondary education) to ask for Greek citizenship, and (c) gives the opportunity for naturalization to TCNs that live in the country for at least 7 consecutive years.

Social attitudes toward refugee and migration influx over the past years vary from an explosion of social activism and NGO involvement in first aid and humanitarian activities to xenophobic and racist discourse and reactions. Traditional narratives of “hospitality” (philoxenia) as social representation of “Greekness” and bottom-up humanitarian reactions of solidarity have been consolidated through EU and governmental formulations in a “patriotism of solidarity” as a new trait of national identity (Papataxiarchis, 2016a, 2016b, 2016c). On the other hand, anti-immigrant rhetoric and violent reactions on the part of extremist Right groups (such as the Golden Dawn political party) have relativized this embellished national icon. The rise of this “uncivil society” in Greece (Sotiropoulos, 2017, p. 123), i.e., the rise of far right groups adopting hate speech against immigrants, has been associated by some analysts (Triandafyllidou, 2013) with the breakout of the economic crisis in 2010, a fact that resulted in the entrance of the Nazi party of Golden Dawn in the parliament in 2012, for the first time in the country’s recent political history, after getting 6.97% of the electorate. However, other analysts attribute the rise of extreme Right to its capacity to capitalize the delegitimization of traditional political parties through its uncivil social activism and undertake the role of an antisystemic political agency (Ellinas, 2015). Immigration in particular is constructed as a problematic, politically dangerous, unexpected, and uncontrollable situation that represents a threat to national unity and cohesion (Kapsalis, 2018). Golden Dawn, using a military structure, Nazi symbols, and “Blood and Honour” slogans and music, encapsulates this xenophobic and racist discourse developing hit squads that perform hate crimes against immigrants and other social groups, which do not adhere to its populist nationalist ideology, such as leftist activists and homosexuals (Wodak, 2015, p. 197). Hence, reported refoulement at the Greek–Turkish borders (FRA, 2018a) is a policy related to both internal political tensions and wider EU governance of mobility, yet with critical repercussions for human rights.

Migrant and “Refugee” Education Policies

Educational provision for refugee children is both a human right and a social and political challenge. Following the universal, inalienable, and indivisible character of human rights recognized by the international treaties ratified by European states (i.e., the 1949 UN Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the 1989 UN Convention on The Rights of the Child), European states are bound to guarantee access to education to all children residing in them. In 2016, the European Commission adopted the Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals, in which Member States are encouraged to provide language learning and prevent educational segregation, which ensure that teachers have the appropriate skills to manage diversity, to promote the recruitment of teachers with a migrant background, to promote the participation of migrants’ children in early childhood education and care, and to assess, validate, and recognize skills and qualifications of TCNs (European Commission, 2016).

According to Article 14 of the Reception Conditions Directive,3 asylum-seeking minors shall be granted the same access to the education system as nationals and this access should not be postponed more than 3 months from the date on which the application for international protection was lodged by or on behalf of the minor. Moreover, preparatory classes, including language classes, shall be provided to minors where it is necessary to facilitate their access to and participation in the education system.

Nevertheless, since migrant flows and asylum seeking are not recent phenomena in Europe, the issue of refugee education, in certain states more so than in others, has been present for several decades (Rutter & Jones, 1998). As a matter of fact, the degree to which special educational policies for newcomers have been adopted by European states presents vast divergences across states. According to one of the largest European studies on refugees’ educational integration, that is the INTEGRACE project, which studied educational provision for refugee and asylum-seeking children in 32 countries, integration strategies in European states depend on four factors: (a) the number of refugees in each country, (b) the history of their settlement, (c) whether the host country is a transit or a destination country, and (d) the political will of elites (Krasteva, 2012). Moreover, access to and quality of education for migrant populations is largely affected by systemic factors, such as key migrant and education policies in the host country (Bartlett, 2015). Since integration is genuinely related to access to the labor market as well as to the social and cultural heritage of a certain policy, according to our analysis, a distinctive parameter influencing refugee integration policies is the structural characteristics of welfare provision and tradition in each national context.

An overview of EU states’ educational provision for refugees

In most EU Member States, there are available official statistics regarding the number of asylum seekers and refugees attending formal education, but they are not systematically collected, while in several cases, they do not distinguish between refugees and migrants in general. Indicatively, in Germany, during 2015, 90,000–120,000 “persons with migration history” were attending primary education, whereas, in Greece, in February–March 2017, 439 asylum seekers were attending preschool education, 1,344 were attending primary education, and 1,007 were attending secondary education. In Poland, statistics refer to percentages of asylum seekers and refugees in Polish schools: as of April 2018, they constituted the 0.026%, 0.065%, and 0.031% in early childhood, primary, and secondary education, respectively (FRA, 2017, p. 4), figures accurately representing the immigration policy of the country.

The policies enforced by most Member States focus on the acquisition of the national language and the (gradual) integration of asylum seeking and refugee students in mainstream education. In all EU countries, children of compulsory schooling age should have access to education soon after their arrival in the country. Most countries limit this period to 3 months, according to European regulations. Even more radically, the Swedish law stipulates that children must be enrolled in education no later than a month after their arrival in the country (Rydin, Eklund, Hogdin, & Sjoberg, 2012, p. 193). However, in practice, these time limits are not followed and children have to wait several months to enter the school system. This vastly depends on the housing arrangements of refugee families, which often reside in temporary shelters or camps for some time, before their settlement in more permanent accommodation facilities. This has been the case with the hotspots on Greek islands until recently, as well as with children of families and unaccompanied minors over 14 years confined in transit zones in Hungary (FRA, 2017, p. 8; Zambeta et al., 2017).

Housing arrangements impact on the accessibility to education, since refugees residing in distant camps located in rural areas (such as some camps in Belgium, the UK, Italy, and Greece) face the challenge of transportation to and from school, which in turn hinders regular school attendance (Koehler, 2017, p. 10).

Accessibility of asylum seekers and refugees to education, in some EU states, depends on their legal status. This is evident in the different policies concerning school attendance. While in the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium, school attendance is compulsory for all school-age children irrespective of their legal status; in other countries, such as Germany, Sweden, and Greece, asylum-seeking children are not obliged to attend school (Crul, Keskiner, Schneider, Lelie, & Ghaeminia, 2017, p. 64; FRA, 2017, pp. 7–8). In Germany, Sweden, and Greece, the obligation to attend school depends on the legal status, that is, when the procedure of status definition has not been completed, children are under no obligation to attend school. Nevertheless, German courses are obligatory in reception centers, yet absenteeism is high (Crul et al., 2017, p. 65). This distinction between asylum seekers and refugees raises issues of classification and selectiveness among immigrants on the basis of the legitimacy of movement. Notably, the policy distinguishing asylum seekers from refugees is applied in the two most popular destination countries (Germany and Sweden) and in Greece, which being a gate to Europe, is perceived as a transit country and, consequently, receives large numbers.

Entrance in education (from reception to mainstream schooling)

Different forms of preparatory classes to help asylum-seeking students follow or enter mainstream classes are operating in most EU countries, such as Greece, Finland, France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, and Hungary (Koehler, 2017, p. 11). In some countries, students attend these classes for up to 2 years before entering mainstream classes (either after an evaluation process or not). The locations (in camps or in nearby schools), as well as the names of these classes (“reception,” “immersion,” “preparation,” “welcome” classes, etc.), differ across states. What is common in all countries is the emphasis on intensive tutoring of the national language. In some countries (Greece, Austria, Italy, some federal states of Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Poland), it is possible for refugee students to directly attend mainstream classes with an additional support of language courses (FRA, 2017, p. 8).

Sometimes, such as in the case of Germany, due to the federal system, a mixture of streams or tracks to mainstream classes is applied and policies differ across federal states. According to Terhart and von Dewitz (2018, pp. 293–294), policies vary among two extremes. On the one end of the spectrum, asylum-seeking students are being submersed in mainstream classes with no additional support, whereas, on the other end, parallel structures exclusively for refugees operate until graduation (Terhart & von Dewitz, 2018, p. 293). The second type of policy is typically followed only in vocational schools in some German federal states.

Post-primary education

It seems that the political vision regarding refugee integration is reflected on the education policies that the different European states adopt concerning post-primary education (Crul, 2017, p. 4). The two prominent paradigms are these of Germany and the Netherlands on the one hand and Sweden on the other. Education policies in Germany and the Netherlands focus on the transition to the mainstream school phase, which is coupled with the highly selective system and the early tracking at ages 10 and 12 years, respectively, leading the majority of refugee students to vocational tracks (Crul, 2017, p. 4; Crul et al., 2017, p. 71). On the contrary, the Swedish system opts for getting as many students as possible to higher education tracks according to their intellectual abilities, by keeping choices open until the age of 18 years (Crul et al., 2017).

The Case of Greece

Historical background on addressing multiculturalism

In Greece, the right to education in public schools is guaranteed by the Immigration Code introduced in 2014 (Article 21 of Law 4251/2014) to all foreign minors refugees, asylum seekers, those fleeing a zone of conflict, or whose status concerning the right to remain in the country is uncertain. Following the repatriation of Greek populations from Western Europe and the United States during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Greek state introduced the Law 1404/1983, providing for “Tutorial” and “Reception Classes” in which emphasis on the Greek language aimed at integrating non-Greek-speaking students in the education system (Markova, 2012). According to this framework, transition from reception to mainstream classes depended on the degree of student’s performance in the language of instruction.

The second wave of migration received by Greece since the 1990s, namely the case of newcomers from Albania and other post-communist countries, obliged the Greek state to take additional measures to address the changing composition of Greek schools, with the establishment of 26 intercultural schools. New regulations in tutorial and reception classes required teachers to be trained in teaching Greek as a second language. During the past two decades, large-scale educational programs funded by the European Commission aim at the integration of Muslim students in Thrace, repatriated, and foreign students and Roma students.

Educational provisions in response to the 2015 refugee flows: First phase

In March 2016, the Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs (MERR) appointed a Scientific Committee (SC) of top executives entrusted with the task to suggest appropriate measures toward refugee children’s inclusion in the Greek schools and society. The final goal of this effort was to prepare both refugee children and the school, so that refugee children fully attend the Greek school in the academic year 2017–2018.

This SC conducted a survey in more than 40 camps and collected data about the population of refugees and children, the site and infrastructure, the bodies involved in educational activities, the educational activities for children (content, frequency, and participation), and the educational activities for adults (content and frequency; Ministry of Education, Research and Religious Affairs, 2016). After the processing of these empirical data, the SC came up with suggestions, which were approved by the MERR in June 2016.

In accordance with these final suggestions, the MERR founded reception classes for children aged 6–15 years for the academic year 2016–2017 and was planning to launch kindergarten classes inside the camps, so that very young children are not separated from their families. Those children who stayed on mainland accommodation centers attended afternoon (14.00–18.00) reception classes in public schools located near their residence. These classes are called “Reception School Annexes for Refugee Education” (RSARE) and have been gradually operating since October 10, 2016. RSARE are special structures aiming to provide for a bridge facilitating the transition from camp life to school. Children who already resided in apartments had the option to enroll in nearby schools. Approximately 800 refugee children were estimated as attending morning reception classes in mainstream schools during school year 2016–2017. The situation, however, has been exceedingly fluid, since this population is on the move and Greece is primarily perceived as a transit country. This fact critically impacts on school attendance.

To meet the needs for the operation of the RSARE, the Ministry recruited 234 supplementary teachers (165 of them on a part-time basis) for the academic year 2016–2017. Experience or academic qualifications relevant to intercultural education or to this specific educational context were not prerequisites for the RSARE teachers’ eligibility, who, nonetheless, received brief trainings by the Institute of Educational Policy (IEP).

The RSARE teaching personnel were subjected to the responsibility of the School Principal and the regional School Advisor.4 At the level of the camp, the MERR has appointed the Refugee Education Coordinators. The latter are full-time public education teachers, experienced and highly qualified, who, after their application, were seconded by the MERR to coordinate refugee education. Their role is crucial in mediating between the refugee families and the school.

In collaboration with the Institute of Education Policy, the SC created a special curriculum, customized to the needs of refugee children, and suggested appropriate educational materials for the teaching of Greek as a second language. These materials have been created as part of intercultural education programs, which have been implemented since the 1990s. In primary education, the RSARE curriculum consists of the following subjects: Greek, English, Mathematics, Physical Education, Computer Science, and Arts and Drama Education.

According to the outcomes of research conducted in an Athens school, which was hosting a RSARE during the “Democratic school governance for inclusion: a whole community approach” project, RSARE serve as transition structures from “traveling” to “schooling” identity. Schooling, both as an educational provision by the state and as a social practice by asylum-seeking families, attributes characteristics of settlement to populations that have a long and often traumatic experience of being on the move. RSARE bring the new populations within the facilities of public education, contribute to the development of a form of settlement, and become vehicles toward a life with regularity and order (Zambeta et al., 2017).

Nonetheless, in the initial phase, RSARE have been designed as distinctive structures in the school, both pedagogically and administratively. RSARE teachers did not come from the permanent teaching personnel, while most of them were rather inexperienced, hired on a part-time basis, and with an unspecified relation to mainstream schoolteachers, and the school-governing board. This fact created a sense of fragmentation between the mainstream school and RSARE, which did not encourage cooperation and inclusive practices.

Second phase: Migrants’ and refugees’ integration policies in education

During the school year 2017–2018, the MERR founded 65 RSARE in primary schools, 30 in secondary schools, and for the first time 35 kindergarten annexes in camp premises, adjacent to public kindergartens.5 This school year was the first when RSARE reached Northern Aegean islands (8 in primary and 4 in secondary education), namely Lesbos, Chios, and Samos, although their establishment took place near the end of the school year (April 2018). In 2018–2019, the MERR founded 83 RSARE in primary schools, 39 in secondary schools, and 33 kindergarten annexes in camps, around the country.6

The number of refugees enrolled at all levels of education during 2017–2018 has been recorded as 8,017. The estimated number of refugee minors in the country at that time was 10,000–12,000. It is reported that 2,000 of them might be unaccompanied minors over 15 years and the rest 2,000 were probably minors residing in specific Western and Northern Aegean areas, where during 2017–2018 no educational provision was offered. According to the Department for the Coordination and Monitoring of Education of Refugees (DCMER), at the same school year, 2,026 refugee students were enrolled in RSARE, 5,291 were enrolled in reception classes in morning schools, and 700 were enrolled in mainstream public schools with no reception classes (Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3.

Asylum seekers in RSARE

2017–2018RSARE in 45 primary schoolsRSARE in 16 secondary schools23 RSARE kindergartensTotal no. of students in RSARE
1,1873005392,026

Note. RSARE: Reception School Annexes for Refugee Education.

Table 4.

Asylum seekers in reception classes

2017–2018Reception classes/primary schoolsReception classes/lower secondary schoolsReception classes/upper secondary schoolsTotal no. of students in reception classes
3,6929006995,291

Education Priority Zones (EPZs)

In October 2017, a new institutional scheme was launched in the context of intercultural education aiming at flexible educational interventions according to the school needs.7 EPZs are designated as a special program inside secondary education school units entrusted to support students who do not acquire sufficient knowledge of Greek language (Roma, foreigners, repatriated, refugees, and vulnerable social groups), to enhance Greek language competence and prevent dropout. At the school level, the Teachers’ Council holds responsibility to take the necessary preparatory steps (diagnostic tests, mediation with parents, week and time schedule, etc.).

EPZs are divided into two levels. Level I is attended by students with minimal or no competence in Greek and includes intensive tutoring of Greek (15 hr per week) in reception classes. Students of Level I attend also Mathematics, Physical Education, Music, Computer Science, and another foreign language in mainstream classes. Attendance in Level I lasts 1 year and can be extended to 2 years. Level II is designed for students with moderate knowledge of Greek and includes supportive language courses and parallel support in other subjects. Students in Level II might be separated in reception classes or supported by a second teacher inside the mainstream class. Attendance of Level II lasts for 2 years, which in exceptional cases can be extended to 3 years. The number of students in EPZ levels ranges from 7 to 17 and the EPZ staff are substitute teachers appointed by the MERR.

Department for the Coordination and Monitoring of Education of Refugees (DCMER)

In February 2018, the DCMER, an independent unit subjected directly to the General/Administrative Secretary of the MERR was created to facilitate flexibility and promptness in decision-making regarding refugees. The DCMER is responsible for the coordination of designing, planning, and evaluation of refugees’ education in cooperation with other MERR directories and co-responsible Ministries and stakeholders.8

More specifically, the DCMER is responsible for appointing and administratively supporting the Special SC, which suggests special curricula, educational material, innovative approaches in teaching, etc., collecting data from co-responsible directories as far as RSARE are concerned, organizing conferences and trainings for educators, in collaboration with the IEP, drafting recommendations regarding RSARE and reception classes staff, collecting and processing of statistics regarding refugees’ education, collaborating with other Ministries, the Greek Parliament, the Ombudsman and national and international organizations (IOM, UNICEF, UNHCR, etc.), local authorities, and other related matters.

According to the new legal framework introduced by the Greek Parliament in 2018,9 which provides for measures aiming at the reorganization of support structures in primary and secondary education, RSARE are subjected to the DCMER. A significant advancement compared to prior institutional configurations of RSARE is the provision for a Certificate of Studies award at the completion of each school year.

European Qualifications Passports

The MERR in cooperation with the Council’s of Europe General Directorate for Democracy; the Hellenic National Academic Recognition Information Center; and the Centers for the Recognition of Qualifications of Norway, the United Kingdom, and Italy, produced the pilot program “European Qualifications Passport for Refugees.” The European Qualifications Passport is a document providing an assessment of the higher education of refugees, based on existent documentation, if any, a questionnaire and structured interviews, which are held by authorized assessors of the above authorities.

At present, this is not an official act of recognition and does not give access to studies or professions with specific requirements, such as the highly regulated professions (physician, dentist, lawyer, engineer, etc.). During the first phase of the program, 92 assessments took place in Greece and 72 passports were issued. The second phase of the program lasts from 2018 to 2020 with the participation of Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Armenia, and Canada. This is a limited but important step that signals the gradual development of a common policy toward migrants’ integration.

Concluding Points: Mobility Governance and Education

Global governance of mobility is enacted at multiple levels, at the international level through economic aid, international agreements, and cooperation, at the national level through border control and internal migration policy and at the local level through migrant integration policies. At the European front, apart from the Dublin regulation, the EU–Turkey agreement and the FRONTEX, which act as international modes for surveillance of mobility, state migration policies perform an essential role in governing, and directing migration flows. This article has argued that European welfare systems respond differently to mobility, a fact that genuinely affects contemporary refugee movements. Migration policy across European states reflects different traditions in social care provided to immigrants, such as in first aid facilities, emergency accommodation, and health care, and especially in longer-term provisions regarding social benefits, housing, employment, and education policies. These policies tend to govern flows toward countries represented as more favorable to migrant integration, thus shaping a tendency of “welfare mobility” to the prosperous European North. Simultaneously, residual welfare states at the European frontiers, such as Greece, are struggling with vast numbers of entrapped transit migrants, due to fortification of borders and tightening of asylum procedures. The inauguration of common policies, such as the European Qualifications Passport, enacts a rather limited, yet uniformal recognition of refugees’ qualifications, enhancing the transferability of skilled migrants.

Education, as a critical component of social policy, mediates in the wider migrant integration strategies, fostered both on the part of the state and migrant groups themselves. The ways in which European education systems respond to challenges stemming from migration flows are inexorably associated with the typology of their welfare states. Discourses on hospitality and social solidarity to refugees as “persons in need” coexist with border closure strategies, classification and selection of immigrants, and economic aspirations of European countries. The main challenge in refugee education is the emergent tension between the goal of integration and practices of segregation. Dilemmas, such as that of “submersion” to mainstream schools or gradual transition through reception structures, which unavoidably become forms of segregation, are constantly present. On the other hand, education has a vital role in selection, consolidation, and integration of skills in the advanced European economies. Labor-importing countries, in particular, adopt a systematic education and training policy, using multiple schemes, including apprenticeship, to recruit skilled labor among immigrants. Despite xenophobic political discourses proclaimed in several European states, the young and highly motivated migrant flows can have a positive contribution to the economies of the aging European societies.

Nonetheless, migrants and asylum seekers are by no means passive recipients in global mobility. They are active agents developing strategies for their future life chances. Education, apart from being a goal per se serving a fundamental human right, is also a means for securing mobility. First, school attendance indicates commitment to integration in the host country, a case positively assessed by asylum authorities. Second, since any decision regarding minors should consider the best interests of the child, according to international treaties, a minor’s school attendance secures the whole family’s non-refoulement, as this would infringe with the minor’s educational rights and their right to family life. Third, educational priorities and options, especially with regard to language learning, are part of relocation strategy. It is quite indicative the fact that German language courses were very popular among asylum seekers residing in Greek refugee accommodation centers, while certain students aspiring to relocation did not seem equally motivated to learn either Greek or English in RSARE. By contrast, students who did not anticipate relocation were more interested to learn Greek.

Migration and the presence of refugees in European societies reassert fundamental political dilemmas regarding the notion of solidarity among European states, representations of European integration, and the quality of democracy European societies are engaged to.

Acknowledgements

Research data on which this article is based partly arise from the project “Democratic school governance for inclusion: A whole community approach” that was funded by the Council of Europe and the EU. The authors are indebted to the academic group of the “Education and Human Rights” postgraduate program of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (http://www.ehr.ecd.uoa.gr/) for developing the epistemic culture that facilitated this project.

An earlier version of this article has been presented in the 2018 Comparative Education Society in Europe conference that was held in Nicosia, in June 2018. The authors are grateful to the participants of this conference for their fruitful comments. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

About the Authors

EZ (PhD) is an Associate Professor of Comparative Education and Education Policy at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. Her main research interests include policy analysis in education focusing on issues of Globalization and Democratic Governance. She has published books and articles on education politics in the Greek and European education systems. Her most important publications include the 2005 WYB of Education “Globalisation and Nationalism in Education,” co-edited with David Coulby, and “Religion and Education” (in Greek).

YP is a PhD candidate at the Department of Early Childhood Education of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She holds a (Joint) MA in “Education and Human Rights” of the National and Kapodistrian University and the Institute of Education, University of London. She has worked in research projects on human rights in education, focusing on violence in schools and the inclusion of minorities in education. Her publications concern the role of gender in school violence and the struggle for recognition of gendered and sexual minorities. Her current research project includes youth participating in queer subcultures in contemporary Athens.

The authors take full responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the analysis.

Ethics

The study was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki and the ethical guidelines of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

3

Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council.

4

The institution of School Advisors was abolished in 2018 with Article 17 of Law 4547/2018, Government Gazette 391A/22-6-2018.

5

Government Gazette 3974B/13-11-2017 and 1316B/17-4-2018.

6

Government Gazette 3580B/22-82018 and 31B/16-1-2019.

7

Ministerial Decree No. 169735/ΓΔ4, Government Gazette 3727B/23-10-2017.

8

Article 56 of Presidential Decree 18/2018, Government Gazette 31A/23-2-2018.

9

Government Gazette 391A/22-6-2018.

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  • Anagnostou, D. (2016). Local government and migrant integration in Europe and in Greece. Athens. Greece: Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Arts, W., & Gelissen, J. (2001). Welfare states, solidarity and justice principles: Does the type really matter? Acta Sociologica, 44(4), 283299. doi:10.1177/000169930104400401

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bambra, C. (2007). Defamilisation and welfare state regimes: A cluster analysis. International Journal of Social Welfare, 16(4), 326338. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2397.2007.00486.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bartlett, L. (2015). Access and quality of education for international migrant children. . Unesco, Paris. Retrieved from http://www.shram.org/uploadFiles/20180118114137.pdf

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  • Brekke, J. P., & Brochmann, G. (2014). Stuck in transit: Secondary migration of asylum seekers in Europe, national differences, and the Dublin regulation. Journal of Refugee Studies, 28(2), 144162. doi:10.1093/jrs/feu028

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  • Council of Europe [CoE]. (2018). Democratic school governance for inclusion: A whole community approach. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from http://pjp-eu.coe.int/en/web/charter-edc-hre-pilot-projects/democratic-school-governance-for-inclusion.

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  • Crul, M. (2017). Refugee children in education in Europe. How to prevent a lost generation? Issue No. 7. SIRIUS Network Policy Brief Series. Retrieved from http://www.sirius-migrationeducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Refugee-children-in-education-in-Europe.-How-to-prevent-a-lost-generation.pdf

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