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Violations of the right of refugees to education

A research of the Greek Ombudsman published on April 22, 2021 found serious violations of the basic rights of refugee children in education. This was found to be due to delays in individual procedures, inaction of the administration (especially in centers of reception and identification called KYT), understaffing (in reception classes, Reception Structures and Refugee Education, etc.), problems in the transfer of students, issues of structures due to pandemic, lack of places in schools, and the untimely creation of new ones.

The Ombudsman this year collected data from all refugee mass accommodation structures operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum regarding the inclusion of children on the move (accompanied or unaccompanied) in schooling. 

In the majority of the accommodation centers, most of the children had enrolled and continue to enroll normally in schools and Reception Structures called DYEP (62% of all school-age children) within the stipulated or at least reasonable time from their arrival and registration. However, there are problems and delays in the distribution of students to schools close to the accommodation centers and neighboring areas, due in particular to the lack of vacancies, sufficient staff or space to create additional departments, but also often due to the negative attitude of schools themselves and / or local communities which sometimes oppose the mass integration of foreign students in educational structures. This is indicated by the Structure of Malakasa, where about 480 primary school children are unable to enroll in the morning school or in Reception Structures called DYEP, due to lack of places, Structure of Ritsona etc.

The picture is worse as far as centers of reception and identification (KYT) are concerned. According to the information from the administrations and the Coordinators of Refugee Education (SEP), in KYTs where coordinators have been placed, almost the entire student population remains out of school. Out of a total of 2,090 school-age minors living in KYT, only 178 were enrolled by January, while 7 had attended. As of the end of April 2021, there has been no educational planning in the KYT of Lesvos, nor has a Coordinator been defined, despite the large number of children (approximately 1,100 school-age children). The picture is similar in Samos, with there have only been 43 registrations of children despite a population of 588 school-age children. Out of the 274 school-age children at the KYT of Chios until January 2021, only 69 had enrolled in the school. It is worthwhile to mention that, in practice, the stay in the KYT is very long and exceeds three months, which is the legislative margin for the registration of applicants for schooling.

In general, the number of children enrolled in the structures of the Ministry of Immigration and the KYT in schools is dramatically far from their actual attendance. It is noteworthy that in all the Structures, out of the 10,431 school-age children, 62% had enrolled, but until the beginning of January, only 14.2% (1,483 children) attended. In reality, actual attendance was even lower, due to increased school dropout related to system malfunctions. The Coordinators reported the main reasons for children not attending, in addition to their own dropping out, were: the untimely operation of the DYEP; the non-staffing or the lack of staffing of the reception classes; the failure to ensure the transfer of students to schools; the shortage of vaccinations and issuance of the Individual Student Health Card; and the restriction of the circulation of the populations of many structures according to the respective Ministerial Decisions.