Europe needs to protect students from persecution
BRUSSELS – All students and governments in Europe should express their solidarity with persecuted students and establish a scheme that enables them to complete their higher education in their host countries and universities, says a new resolution adopted by 47 national unions of students in Europe.
The resolution was adopted at the 64th Board Meeting of the European Students Union (ESU) held in Budapest from 25 to 28 April. The national unions of students, that are members to ESU, called for the freedom of expression to be respected.
“Students that are being persecuted on the grounds of their political beliefs and engagements are often expelled from their higher education institutions, forced to abandon their studies and flee their countries of origin. The rights of those students that want a change for themselves and others in their societies are continuously violated by authorities, for example when those students are threatened, arrested or expulsed. These measures are used as effective means to stop the critical voices of students from being heard,” says Gabriela Bergan, Human Rights and Solidarity Coordinator at ESU.
Protective measures taken in Europe
Some countries have already taken action to protect students from persecution. The Netherlands has for example implemented the Libertas Support Fund. The European Union also set up a scheme providing grants for expelled students in Belarus in 2006, supporting the neighbouring countries to host the persecuted students. ESU welcomes those initiatives but urges European governments to take a step further to ensure that all persecuted students can complete their education and express their diverse opinions everywhere.
“Persecuted students should be able to prove that they are enrolled in a higher education institution in their home countries and that they face difficulties in continuing their studies because of their political activism. Once a persecuted student has been identified as such and granted the possibility to study in a host country, the mechanism should ensure that he or she has access to high quality education, by covering possible tuition fees, living and travelling costs, health care, moral or psychological support and access to the necessary student support services,” Bergan explains.
Additionally, the mechanism should ensure that students will have all the necessary support to complete their studies successfully after being personally affected by these circumstances.
Government officials are the main perpetrators
Authorities have numerous motives to attack higher education institutions, as documented in UNESCO’s report called Education Under Attack. Students and academics that are critical of political policies or actions may be silenced. The promotion of human or minority rights may also be prevented in order to limit academic freedom or political pluralism. In three out of four cases, government officials are identified as the main perpetrators of persecutions against students and scholars.
“All students have the right to express themselves and organise freely in legally recognised entities, as protected in articles number 10 and 14 of the Students’ Rights Charter. Such involvement may not have academic, financial or legal consequences for the students concerned. Persecution of students undermines the quality of higher education by destroying the intellectual capital. It also impedes the development of economies, politics and societies because it hinders students from playing their role as active citizens,” Bergan emphasises.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 39 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.