With the support of UNHCR in Serbia, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) on 30 September 2020held a webinar on the recognition of the refugees’ qualifications. The webinar aimed to familiarise the participants with the process of recognising the qualifications of refugees in Serbia based on the successful practice of the Council of Europe’s Education Department.
The event was opened by BCHR Executive Director Sonja Tošković, who recalled the importance of this issue for the integration of refugees in Serbian society. Panellist Samir Hećo of the CoE Education Department presented the European Qualifications Passport for Refugees (EQPR), while panellist Letizia Brambilla Pisoni from the CIMEA – National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) in Italy talked about the experiences of applying the EQPR in that country. The webinar was moderated by Jelena Ilić, BCHR’s Senior Refugee Integration Adviser.
The webinar was attended by 46 representatives of state institutions, the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, the Serbian ENIC-NARIC, regional school administrations, international organisations, the UNHCR Office in Belgrade and local CSOs, who contributed to the active discussion.
The panellists presented the EQPR, a document that lists the applicants’ highest education qualifications obtained, language skills and work experience. The initiative helps refugees restore their lives in countries they plan on settling in and in which they enjoy legal protection, providing them with the possibility of assessing their qualifications even when they do not have all the documents proving them. The EQPR thus supports the implementation of Article VII of the 1997 Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region, which facilitates recognition of refugees’ qualifications even in the absence of all the documentation. The CoE elaborated the Convention together with UNESCO.
The refugees can use the EQPR when they wish to enrol in college, enter further studies and/or seek employment, ad apply for scholarships. The recognition process involves three steps: assessment, explanation and practical use of the passport in further integration. Part two includes information on the legal status of the document and a brief description of the project. Part three contains information on the next steps, contact details of state authorities and agencies, job-seeking steps and applications for continuing education. Although it does not constitute formal recognition, authorisation or licence to engage in a particular profession, the EQPR provides credible information that may be relevant to applications for jobs, internships, qualification courses and enrolment in college. The document is valid for five years. The goal is to provide refugees and migrants with the opportunity to improve their language skills, continue their studies, improve their employment prospects or apply for the formal recognition or approval of their education.
The webinar provided the participants with the opportunity to discuss cooperation and implementation of projects to improve the recognition of refugees’ qualifications in Serbia and other issues.