Today UNHCR launched “Missing Out: Refugee Education in Crisis,” a troubling new report indicating that opportunities to learn diminish greatly when children are forced to flee their homes and as they grow older. This essay is taken from the report’s introduction.
When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees began work on January 1, 1951, it was given three years to complete its task of helping millions of European refugees left homeless or in exile after the war. At that time, three years was deemed long enough to resolve the refugee problem once and for all, after which — it was expected — UNHCR’s task would be complete.
Today, there are 16.1 million refugees worldwide under UNHCR’s mandate. More than half are children, and six million are of primary and secondary school-going age. The average length of time a refugee spends in exile is about 20 years. Twenty years is more than an entire childhood, and represents a significant portion of a person’s productive working years. Given this sobering picture, it is critical that we think beyond a refugee’s basic survival. Refugees have skills, ideas, hopes and dreams. They face huge risks and challenges, but — as we saw exemplified in the inspiring achievements of the Refugee Olympic Team — they are also tough, resilient and creative, with the energy and drive to shape their own destinies, given the chance.
“It is critical that we think beyond a refugee’s basic survival.”
Making sure that refugees have access to education is at the heart of UNHCR’s mandate to protect the world’s rapidly increasing refugee population, and central to its mission of finding long-term solutions to refugee crises. However, as the number of people forcibly displaced by conflict and violence rises, demand for education naturally grows and the resources in the countries that shelter them are stretched ever thinner.
 In addition to these 16.1 million, 5.2 million Palestinian refugees are registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
 Global enrolment rates refer to 2014 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics) and refugee enrolments rates refer to 2015 (UNHCR).
 Situations where 25,000 people or more have been forcibly displaced for more than five years.
 Most recently, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Pakistan and South Sudan have included refugees in provincial or national multi-year education sector plans.