RIYADH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation has urged the international community to protect the rights of refugees around the world, particularly with regard to their access to education.
The call was made at the end of the eighth annual seminar held by the OIC’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission. The two-day event, titled “Islamic Perspectives on Protection of Refugees: Rights and Access to Education,” was held in Kuala Lumpur in collaboration with the Malaysian government. It was attended by IPHRC members as well as experts from academia, multilateral and intergovernmental organizations, and representatives of OIC member and observer states.
The participants called for “identifying gaps and making proposals on ways forward, including building the capacities and capabilities of host countries, to provide the best educational opportunities for refugee children; addressing gender dimensions in refugee education, including online learning opportunities; strengthening national legislation and development plans; improve refugee access to education, and to identify ways to enhance international cooperation to address refugee issues.”
They recommended the adoption by the IPHRC of the “Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Refugee Rights and Access to Education” as the final document of the symposium. They also called for the establishment of a special institution, mechanism or fund within the OIC system through a mandate by the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers with the aim of laying a methodological basis for improving the welfare of refugee communities in OIC countries based on a burden-sharing approach.
IPHRC Chairman Haci Ali Acikgul stressed the need to develop cooperative links between all OIC member states and the commission to promote best practices to ensure the full protection of refugees’ rights in accordance with Islamic teachings and international human rights law.
The attendees also welcomed the establishment of the Global Islamic Refugee Fund “as an innovative Shariah-compliant instrument to invest in the humanitarian response to forced displacement,” which was adopted by the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development — the humanitarian arm of the Islamic Development Bank — in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They also urged OIC member states to support the initiative to address refugee issues and protect their welfare, including the coordination of resources for the purpose of providing education, health services and livelihoods for refugees.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Saifuddin bin Abdullah proposed the establishment of an OIC Refugee Education Foundation to design, facilitate and develop interventions in all relevant areas for refugees’ education.
According to UNHCR figures there were about 27.1 million refugees and 4.6 million asylum-seekers worldwide at the end of last year. UNESCO says that 50 percent of the world’s refugees and asylum-seekers are under the age of 18.
Dr. Abdualraheem Almoghathawi, a former professor of graduate studies at the Islamic University of Madinah, said: “Refugees are in a state of alienation and distance from their families, friends and relatives, and therefore they are in an abnormal condition and not qualified to live a decent life.”
Providing educational opportunities at all levels and in accordance with refugees’ needs was one of their most basic rights, he added.
“There are many ways and means to activate this lofty goal, including the formation of a fund for the education of refugees in the world, and its support must be from several reliable bodies.”