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'Qualification Passport' Enables Refugees to Study, Work in Countries of Exile

FILE - The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is seen during a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017.

UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization reports it is expanding its so-called Qualification Passport program, which enables refugees and vulnerable migrants to continue their studies or get employment in countries of exile.

More often than not, refugees and migrants who have had a secondary or tertiary education at home have difficulty applying for higher education or finding work commensurate with their skills in their new countries. They often lack the certificates proving they have completed their studies.

The UNESCO Qualification Passport is a standardized document, which contains information about the person’s qualifications, job experience and language proficiency.

UNESCO assistant director-general for education, Stefania Giannini, says the aim of the program is to help refugees without documents be recognized for their accomplishments by their hosting countries.

"If you do not have anything, if you do not have papers, which can demonstrate, you know — you lose part of your life. You lose part of your competence. You lose part of your knowledge," she said. "So, this is for helping refugees. Then there is the other side of the coin, which is to give hosting countries the opportunity to valorize human capital they have."

Syrian refugee, Anwar Horani, is the first Qualifications Passport holder. After graduating as a physiotherapist from Albaath University in Homs in 2016, she was forced to flee her country. She spent a year in Greece without the necessary documents to prove her qualifications.

In 2017, she received the European Qualifications Passport, which she presented to officials in Norway, her new country of asylum. She says this document has changed her life.

"I was able to use this type of documentation to pursue my study in the University of Oslo and achieve a course in international public health. And after one-and-a-half years from arriving in the country to have like two jobs in two different places in my new host country, Norway."

The UNESCO program is being piloted in Zambia. This month, 11 candidates were issued with the first UNESCO Qualified Passports in the presence of the minister of higher education for Zambia. With this tool, officials say the refugees will be able to recommence their lives in the country.

UNESCO says it is planning to start similar piloting programs in Iraq and Colombia.