PhD candidate at the Department of Education
Since 2015, up to one million refugees and asylum seekers have entered Greece, mostly via the Aegean islands. In the early days, the government’s strategy was to facilitate transfers over to the mainland and up to the northern border as quickly as possible (sometimes in less than 48 hours), allowing migrants to continue their journeys along the Western Balkan route and on to their destination countries in Western and Northern Europe. However, following the implementation of various ‘migration management’ strategies across Europe – including border closures, enforcement of the Dublin Regulation, and the controversial EU-Turkey agreement – thousands have become trapped in Greece, causing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to warn that it risks becoming a “warehouse of souls”. Faced with approximately 75,000 newcomers unable to leave the country – at least a third of whom were under the age of 18, and mostly located in a few urban centres – a new national strategy was required.
By 2016, the shift to reception and integration was taking place, with education forming a large part of this strategy. Legal changes meant that officially, education became compulsory for all refugee and asylum-seeking 6 to 15-year-olds – even when lacking complete documentation – on the same basis as local Greek children. Children on the mainland were integrated into classes in Zones of Educational Priority and into afternoon shifts in local schools, taught by substitute teachers. By the 2018-19 school year, these reception structures had been extended to include upper-secondary education in high schools. As 89% of all minors arriving in Greece in 2018 were aged 15-17, there is a growing need to cater for these older adolescents. However, uptake and retention in high school is especially low: while roughly 40% of all 15 to 18-year-olds are enrolled, the government notes that 45-56% of those eventually drop out, and sometimes as quickly as one month after starting. Some studies suggest that youth prefer to pursue non-formal educational alternatives, which vary widely in their content and organisation.
My DPhil research investigates this issue by exploring the futures which this age group imagine and construct for themselves – through this web of asylum policies and educational provision – and the constraints and enablers across their social ecologies which hinder or help their learning. By doing so, I hope to help young refugees, their families and other stakeholders to identify the resources and relationships which could be leveraged to support youth to achieve the educational outcomes they have reason to value.