Young refugees in a displacement camp in Erbil, Iraq after fleeing Syria
Young refugees in a displacement camp in Erbil, Iraq after fleeing Syria

World refugee day

An open letter from young people in the UK

By Eddie, Hamid, Isabelle, Maham and Sayed

Ahead of World Refugee Day, members of the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) and Refugee Support Network’s Youth Advisory Boards have authored a joint open letter to the public. The letter calls for kindness and togetherness to realise the right to education for all.

No restrictions on education: this World Refugee Day, be kind

40% of people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world are children [1].

It has taken a global crisis for us to understand the pain and difficulty of restricted education – and empathise.

During COVID-19, the education of young people across the UK has been disrupted, restricted or even brought to a painful stop. This has impacted our lives and the nation dramatically and has cast doubt on our next steps, whether that be further education or starting jobs.

“Many of us didn’t expect to be upset over the cancellation of exams; there was a time when that would have been every student’s dream. However many young people including me, are left uncertain about our next steps which may be connected to our academic achievements. Now that [our education] has been disrupted, we fear how this will affect where we choose to go next” – Maham

However, this is an everyday reality for many young refugees; some things just aren’t an option if they don’t have the correct paperwork.

“I missed out on several years of education when I had to leave the UK, and it was really scary. Without support, this can lead to mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety” – Hamid

All levels of education are invaluable: without access to higher education, young refugees can be left feeling like they’re living in the past. Not having this choice can prevent us from making the positive changes we want, for ourselves and the world.

Education is important because it provides us with essential skills and knowledge, enables us to pursue a successful career and forge a better future for ourselves, our friends and our family. Learning is more than recalling knowledge. It is self-improvement, thinking creatively, innovatively and actively. It empowers us to become changemakers and make a difference in our communities; simply put, education is the key to freedom.

When we rebuild the world after coronavirus, we need to learn from the past and strengthen the policies and plans surrounding our education. Education is a right for all children under Articles 2 and 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; therefore we have both a legal and moral obligation to ensure that education is accessible and no longer restricted.

Young refugees are no different to other children, and make invaluable contributions to our society. We all deserve the opportunity to pursue our dreams.

This World Refugee Day, we all need to protect the rights of young refugees.

This World Refugee Day, we all need to be kind; because together, we make better worlds.

Hamid and Sayed are part of Refugee Support Network’s Youth Advisory Board and Eddie, Isabelle and Maham are part of UNICEF UK’s Youth Advisory Board.

If you would like to find out more about Refugee Support Network and their work to improve education for refugees and asylum seekers, you can visit their website at

[1] Global Trends 2019: Forced Displacement, UNHCR

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