The new access challenge is for refugees, says UNHCR

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The new access challenge is for refugees, says UNHCR

University access for refugees has become a major challenge for countries in Asia, which like Europe, are seeing an influx of more educated and aspirant refugees.
Unlike previous waves of refugees in Southeast Asia, refugees are arriving with higher levels of education, particularly from countries such as Syria and Iraq.
However their qualifications are not comparable qualifications to those required to access higher education in their country of asylum, a major conference on Global Access to Post-Secondary Education, or GAPS, heard last week.
Receiving countries were so far unprepared for the influx of such refugees, according to Niaz Ahmad, programme officer in Malaysia for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR. Speaking at the GAPS conference held in Kuala Lumpur from 5-8 October, Ahmad said host countries had a problem of collecting data on refugees in their country, and therefore often had not begun to tackle the issue of providing education access.
For example, it was not discovered that of a total of 152,700 ‘population of concern’ – a term used to describe refugee and displaced children – in Malaysia, only 15% were in school. This was in part because refugee children in Malaysia cannot attend publicly funded schools, he said. “We need better data on the refugee population so that we can understand their needs,” he said.
UNHCR said refugees typically did not bring educational certificates with them, and often could not access public examinations in the receiving country for language and other reasons, and were therefore held back in their education.
Refugees from countries in the Middle East “are well educated and want access to tertiary education, as their lives have been disrupted”, said Mimi Zarina Azmin, education associate at UNHCR’s education unit in Malaysia, a country with the second-highest number of refugees globally in an urban setting, according to UNHCR.
Malaysia’s large refugee burden includes 100,000 refugees from Myanmar registered last year, and others from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as well as the Middle East.
“We are trying to encourage countries and institutions to provide scholarships,” Ahmad said.
Higher education institutions in Malaysia, including foreign branch campuses have granted access and scholarships to refugees, Ahmad told the conference.
UNHCR in the past year had signed a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, International University of Malaya-Wales and the private Limkokwing University of Creative Technology – all of twhich provide instruction in English – to provide higher education access for young refugees, the first time this had been done in Malaysia.
“They not only granted access but also scholarships,” Ahmad said. Some 50 refugees will now be able to access higher education in Malaysia under this scheme, he said.
Malaysia earlier this month said it would accept some 3,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years, with an emphasis on professional and semi-skilled people. But UNHCR said it was precisely such people that needed access to universities for further study and for their families.
Ahmad said the MOU’s with the universities in Malaysia could serve as a model for other countries to provide access to refugees.

DPM: Malaysia to accept professional, semi-skilled Syrian refugees

Ahmad Zahid (left) the signning visitor’s book with his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis while the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin (right) looks on. — Bernama photo
WASHINGTON DC: Malaysia is to give preference to professional and semi-skilled people in accepting the 3,000 Syrian refugees it has agreed to bring to Malaysia over the next three years.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Home Ministry was working out the procedure for these refugees to move to Malaysia.
“This is Malaysia’s commitment to the international community,” he said, elaborating on the announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on the acceptance of the Syrian refugees when addressing the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Oct 1.
Referring to the Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Syrian refugee crisis, Najib said the world community should not just sit back and watch what was going on.
It is estimated that more than four million Syrians have fled as refugees from the civil war in their country.
Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia was more committed now than during the war in the Balkan states when the country accepted 200 refugees from Bosnia Herzegovina.
He spoke to Malaysian journalists soon after he began a working visit Wednesday to the United States administrative centre.
“The visit is at the invitation of the United States government,” said Ahmad Zahid, who is also the home minister.
He is scheduled to sign the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 (HSPD-6) with US Secretary of State John Kerry, the final procedure for Malaysia to be granted exemption of visa for Malaysians visiting the United States.
An announcement on the facility is expected to be made by US President Barack Obama during his visit to Malaysia scheduled for next month.
Ahmad Zahid said all Malaysians eligible to visit the United States would enjoy the visa exemption.
He said Malaysia had already complied with most of the matters on the checklist towards visa exemption, and the rejection rate for visa applications shall not exceed three per cent compared to the existing 4.2 per cent.
However, he said, this was more of a technical hitch related to knowing how to fill the application form than a security issue.
The deputy prime minister said this matter could be addressed with the cooperation of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur through the holding of awareness programmes for tour agents and the public on the visa application procedure.
Ahmad Zahid, who is on his third visit to the United States since October last year, is scheduled to hold discussions with various authorities in Washington, such as the State Department, Homeland Security Department and organisations such as the CIA and FBI.
On the first day of his visit, Ahmad Zahid held meetings with the CIA and FBI.
The deputy prime minister held discussions separately with CIA director John O Brennan and deputy director Mark F. Giuliano, on among other things cooperation in addressing the threat of extremism, on cyber security and cyber crime, including cross-border crime.
Ahmad Zahid said that besides exchanging information and intelligence information, the US could share with Malaysian enforcement agencies its expertise in software and training on cyber crime and cyber security.
He also said that amendments would be made to Malaysian laws to provide for monitoring of the cyberspace and social media in the country.
Ahmad Zahid invited the CIA and FBI to attend the Putrajaya International Security Dialogue on Oct 21-22 as well as the International Conference on Deradicalisation in Malaysia in January next year. — Bernama

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