Spreek je Nederlands?: In recent years, there has been a large increase of refugees on European soil, thus highlighting the challenges that a new language imposes on them. Considering that, what measures should be taken in order to make education available and accessible, thus abolishing some of the barriers refugees face when integrating into a new society?

Submitted by: Israe El Boudaidi Chikhi, Famke van den Dugen, Tova Fritzon, Pieke Jongejan, Selen Nur Kaçmaz, Feline Mac Donald, Evie Nicholls, Olivia Stjernstörm, Soija Tutulić, Sebastiaan Vanseuningen, Nyah Willems, Bianca Zancan (Chairperson, IT)

The European Youth Parliament aims to help refugees integrate into Member State societies by tackling the language barrier separating them from native speakers. We strive to develop comprehensive tools to ease language acquisition, that shall be available and accessible to all refugees fleeing to, and arriving on European soil. Through promoting the teaching of national languages of host countries, the European Youth Parliament hopes to achieve mutual acceptance between native citizens and refugees and successful integration of the latter with the first.

The European Youth Parliament,

  1. Bearing in mind the recent increase in the number of refugees which spotlighted the insufficient preparedness of Member States when addressing refugees’ needs, 
  2. Firmly convinced that national language acquisition is crucial for refugees to integrate into their host country,
  3. Alarmed by the potential negative impact of language barriers on the mental health of refugees which can lead to isolation, anxiety, and even depression,
  4. Understanding that language barriers in the medical field often lead to a misdiagnosis, and to an overall decrease in the quality of provided healthcare, testified by 37% of doctors believing non-native speaking patients hold information from them due to an inability to communicate,
  5. Further concerned by the impact language barriers can play in preventing refugees from achieving economic security and stability,
  6. Recognising with regret the shortage of teachers in multiple EU Member States,
  7. Noting with dismay that the educational and linguistic acquisition of refugee children may be negatively affected by the growth of anti-immigration sentiments,
  8. Reiterating its conviction that all children have a fundamental right to basic education that would enable them to speak the native language of the country they live in,
  9. Deeply concerned by the fact 32% of refugee children worldwide do not have access to primary education;
  1. Calls upon the European Council on Refugees and Exiles to conduct a census of refugees living in each Member State and register their biometrics to facilitate better acknowledgement and understanding of their different needs;
  2. Seeks NGOs such as Open Arms and SOS Mediterranee to develop and enhance education-centred infrastructure in refugee camps;
  3. Asks private organisations and (inter)governmental organisations, such as Taalunie, to research the financial and social benefits that come from refugees learning their host country’s language;
  4. Invites Member States to provide healthcare facilities with trained interpreters to improve the doctor-patient relationship and prevent misdiagnosis;
  5. Implores the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture (DG EAC) to facilitate the development of online language education platforms aimed at providing all foreigners tools to learn the host country’s language;
  6. Further implores DG EAC to provide language courses focused on specialised professions’ terminologies on these education platforms;
  7. Calls upon Member States to introduce modules within teacher training courses that help teachers to make language education more suitable for refugees;
  8. Invites Member States to support the establishment of talking groups for refugees to help them learn the national language in an informal setting;
  9. Requests the Council of Europe to expand the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to establish guidelines for the acquisition of qualifications in language teaching of refugees;
  10. Urges Member States to increase the accessibility and quality of educational tools and resources by encouraging citizens to partake in educational projects voluntarily;
  11. Encourages Member States to develop courses on language learning for refugees in line with the Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants (LIAM);
  12. Trusts that Member States will promote inclusion within schools by ensuring that teachers are instructed on each child’s personal needs;
  13. Calls upon Member States to provide support for parents tackling the language barrier in daily life to ease the living conditions of their private lives and promote better societal integration.

Fact sheet

Refugee:  a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, conflict, persecution, or natural disaster.

Language barrier: the difficulty or impossibility to communicate between individuals who do not speak a common language.

Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: an instrument used by the Council of Europe to promote quality education of multiple languages and stimulate reflection and exchange between language experts to improve language education. 

Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants (LIAM): project developed by the Council of Europe in 2006, with a focus on language policy and its development, language learning programmes for adult migrants, and the assessment of learning outcomes. 

Taalunie: an organisation which develops and promotes a policy on Dutch teaching and learning in the Netherlands, Flanders, and Suriname.