On the eve of World Refugee Day tomorrow, the Jesuit Refugee Services Europe have issued a statement highlighting the plight of many young refugees worldwide who are not receiving any education. They say: "Almost half the world's refugees are children or young people. Today we want to pay tribute to their courage, to their determination and to their resilience. In refugee camps worldwide, sometimes in appalling situations and after suffering severe trauma, young refugees continue to show creativity as well as a real desire to learn, to live, to contribute to society. "Education is a key opportunity for young refugees. It can unlock their potential and make possible a different future. But in camp situations, it is usually only possible up to primary level. Also, many young refugees have had their studies interrupted and may never get a chance to resume them. This represents generations of wasted opportunity. "Here in Europe young refugees often lead the way in integration into the new society. They have to learn new languages, they have to recover from trauma; yet they are often the ones who help their parents and who spearhead integration. We urge EU governments to ensure that refugee children are given all the help they need in this important adjustment. And we also urge that children of asylum seekers have access to the education system right from when they arrive in the country. The fact that governments are struggling with the issue of mixed flows - refugees arriving together with economic migrants - means that even children may be treated with suspicion. Yet, where children are concerned, we should be generous, positive and accepting. "JRS Europe urges European governments to reach out in a special way to refugee youth through its development programmes." JRS Europe Director John Dardis said: "If you contrast the opportunities available here in Europe to our children and the opportunities which young refugees have in camps in Africa and Asia, you realise the responsibility we have here to share some of what we enjoy and to give a future to at least some of those children and young people. The EU already makes a significant contribution to refugee education programmes but on this day we urge the EU to think even more deeply about how to further contribute to refugee education." "In a new European initiative, JRS is also reaching out to explain about refugees to young people in Europe and to combat the rise in anti refugee sentiment. "In 2004, in Europe, we hope to launch a special project aimed at educating young people in schools about the refugee situation. We hope to put young Europeans in touch with young refugees in other parts of the world and build a sense of solidarity. Young people are the future, the best bridge builders. They are the ones who can show us tolerance, compassion and a better way forward." Source: JRS
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