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Professor Anneke Smit joins UNHCR Europe and the European Resettlement Network as a consultant to conduct study of higher education scholarships for refugees

In the midst of the global migration crisis, higher education opportunities for refugee youth can play a crucial role in their safety and protection.

Following the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in 2016, universities and other members of civil society have been called upon to share responsibility for creating pathways to refugee protection. To assist these efforts, Windsor Law’s Professor Anneke Smit was engaged by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Europe and partner organizations in the European Resettlement Network (ERN+) as external consultant to conduct a feasibility study of higher education scholarships for refugees.

Smit’s study explores the potential to conduct a coordinated pilot project in select EU countries to expand higher education opportunities and lead to potential long-term stay solutions in those countries.  The focus is on providing scholarships for refugees currently in countries of first asylum – for example Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey or Jordan, or Somali refugees in Kenya – who are unable to pursue higher education there.  

“We looked at how higher education and protection opportunities for refugees in Europe can be expanded,” said Smit. “Fewer than 1% of refugees globally have access to higher education, and some are describing this as a lost generation if more study opportunities are not created.” 

Smit has been able to bring to the position a combination of 20 years of research and practice experience in refugee policy, and an insider’s knowledge of how universities function. Her language ability has been helpful in making connections as well, as Smit speaks French and conversational Dutch.

The project wrapped up in April 2018 with a stakeholder’s workshop in Brussels.  Smit’s study was presented to government, international organisation, European Union (EU), university and civil society representatives along with parallel reports on private refugee sponsorship and humanitarian admission programmes. Smit is optimistic that the study will lead to a pilot project in an EU member state to test-run the project framework; UNHCR and its partner organizations were particularly interested in the Netherlands, where Smit recently spent four months on sabbatical.  She hopes then to see the programme expand to other European countries. The Canadian student refugee resettlement programme run by the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) was an important reference point, along with small-scale programmes being run in France and Germany, and Smit says the study also has lessons for higher education institutions and organisations in Canada looking to expand scholarship opportunities for refugees. 

Smit researches and teaches in the area of refugee law and policy, and is active in advocacy and assistance efforts for refugee communities both locally and internationally. She is a member of the national steering committees of Scholars at Risk Canada and Canada4Refugees, the co-founder of the Windsor Refugee Sponsorship Support Programme, and a member of the Windsor Law Group of 5 refugee sponsorship group, which has led refugee sponsorship efforts on the University of Windsor campus.  In 2017 she was the recipient of the Windsor-Essex Local Immigration Partnership’s Jean Foster Welcoming Community award.  

European Resettlement Network Conference on Complementary Pathways to Protection in Brussels April 12, 2018.

European Resettlement Network Conference on Complementary Pathways to Protection in Brussels April 12, 2018.

Professor Anneke Smit at the European Resettlement Network Conference on Complementary Pathways to Protection in Brussels April 12, 2018.

European Resettlement Network Conference on Complementary Pathways to Protection in Brussels April 12, 2018.

European Resettlement Network Conference on Complementary Pathways to Protection in Brussels April 12, 2018.