Doc. 9839

23 June 2003

Vocational training of young asylum seekers in host countries

Recommendation 1552 (2002)

Reply from the Committee of Ministers

adopted at the 844th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19 June 2003)

1.       The Committee of Ministers has examined with interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1552 (2002) on the vocational training of young asylum seekers in host countries, and has transmitted it to the governments of its member states.

2.       The Committee of Ministers considers that access to basic education during the period of compulsory schooling is a fundamental right which should be assured by all Council of Europe member states to asylum seeking minors, accompanied or not, on their territory.

As regards the provision of further educational and training opportunities to young asylum seekers (para. 6.i.a.), care should be taken not to create a false impression that asylum is a normal pathway to economic migration.

The Committee of Ministers considers that education and vocational training, to the extent that it is provided, of young asylum seekers, or of other young persons seeking international protection, is likely to benefit, not only the young people concerned, but also society as a whole, because this may facilitate integration into the host society, should refugee status be granted, or return and reintegration into the country of origin.

3.       The Committee considers that the question of the time at which vocational education and training programmes should be accessible to young asylum seekers is at the point when refugee status or another form of protection is granted. On this matter, it points to the importance of the introduction of rapid and efficient procedures for determining status, in accordance with the recognised international criteria and the appropriate legal guarantees.

However, the Committee of Ministers is of the view that the provision of vocational training before that may act as a potential pull factor, encouraging persons to use the asylum channel as a means of entering states for economic purposes, thus undermining the valid economic migration paths in place in receiving countries. It is thus more appropriate that the provision of education, in terms of mother culture supports and language training, be the primary focus.

4.       It notes that some member states also take the view that encouragement should be given to the introduction of vocational education and training programmes for young asylum seekers without account being taken of whether or not these asylum seekers have access to the labour market in the host country.

5.       The Committee considers that it would, in practice, be desirable for member states to give support to the organisations which deal with young asylum seekers (paragraph 6.i.b). Governments could usefully encourage the private sector to help to set up teaching arrangements to supplement education (paragraph 6.i.c). This same reasoning applies to the recommendation that account be taken of the particular needs, among those young persons1 referred to in paragraph 3, of those having accompanying dependent families.

6.       Where the persons permitted to stay in the host country on grounds other than that of asylum are concerned (second part of paragraph 6.i.g), attention needs to be drawn to paragraph 5 of Committee of Ministers Recommendation Rec(2001)18 on subsidiary protection, which provides that “Host member states should ensure that beneficiaries of subsidiary protection enjoy a legal status and that therefore, in particular, they: … enjoy basic social and economic rights, in particular, access to housing, legal means of subsistence (access to social benefits or to the labour market), basic healthcare and, as appropriate, education or training”.

7.       The Committee considers it appropriate for international organisations to strengthen co-operation and information sharing and to undertake, if need be, specific programmes in this field (paragraph 6.ii of the recommendation). The Ad hoc Committee of Experts on Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons (CAHAR), as a forum enabling member states to carry out exchanges of views, experience and information relating to refugees, as well as the Advisory Council of Youth INGOs, could be asked to contribute to this process within the limits of their respective terms of reference.

8.       In respect of the recommendation on the recognition of qualifications (paragraph 6.iii), the Committee of Ministers wishes to point out that the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications (ETS No 165), for the implementation of which the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CD-ESR) is responsible, lays down general principles on the fair recognition of university degrees which might well be applied, mutatis mutandis, to vocational diplomas. These principles exclude, for example, the use of formal obstacles to recognition as an administrative barrier to access to the labour market. However, a general study of the recognition of vocational diplomas might well divert from the fundamental priorities of the Council of Europe‘s education programme, so as to explore fields which other institutions and organisations are in a better position to study.

1 In some member states, the term ‘young’ is used to designate young persons aged 16 and under.