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Improving Inclusion of Refugee Youth in Mexican Universities

Our contribution is the establishment of host community and migrant student groups across Mexican Universities who will advocate for refugee

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Refugee youth from Central America and Venezuela living in Mexico are the specific people on the move who will be impacted through improved access to higher education and greater social inclusion. The problem that our idea helps to solve is the social and academic exclusion of refugees and forced migrants, and the increasingly negative narrative in Mexico about these populations. The root cause is an unprecedented increase in the number of forced migrants arriving in Mexico, a new phenomenon for which Mexican institutions, the NGO community and society in general were not prepared. While barriers to academic inclusion can be procedural or bureaucratic (such as the lack of processes in place for treating the applications of refugees), barriers to social inclusion stem from pressure on host communities to accommodate large influxes of foreign nationals, and the global and local politicization of immigration issues, which has led to misconceptions and increasingly negative narrative about refugees and asylees. Despite these barriers and negative perceptions, many young people in Mexico are eager to shape a more positive narrative, and provide support to young people on the move. Many Mexican university students are engaged in global politics and enthusiastic about the inclusion of refugees. However, few opportunities exist for them to show their solidarity and take action, and they may not feel empowered or supported in providing the appropriate resources and assistance to refugee students The solution to this problem is through the creation of campus-based student groups composed of host-community and forced migrant youth who will raise awareness, influence dialogue and policy about forced migration and student inclusion at their institution, and provide social and academic integration support to forced migrant students on their campus.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

This idea will be implemented in Mexico at universities across the country. This idea will also have an impact on the origin countries of refugees, most of whom come from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela. While activities will take place in Mexico, this idea will indirectly benefit these countries of origin: increased access to higher education will allow refugee students to make meaningful contributions to their home countries when it is safe for them to return.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

This initiative will build bridges between refugee students host community students in Mexico. It will foster understanding between students from different backgrounds, and set the stage for a more hospitable community and shared future of stability. By promoting positive narratives about refugees and advocating to break down barriers that prevent their inclusion and participation in post-secondary education, the initiative will also build bridges between refugees and academic institutions.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

At the core of the idea are social and academic inclusion, which help refugee and forced migrant youth fulfill their human needs of joy, hope, and dignity. The idea addresses joy through the focus on building bridges, social inclusion, and friendships between host community youth and youth on the move. The greater inclusion of youth on the move into higher education systems in Mexico also offers an opportunity to be a part of an academic community, and to connect with their peers as equals. Reducing barriers that prevent refugees and asylees to continue their education and advocating for their right to education contributes to their dignity. Not only does education contribute to improved skills and knowledge, but increased agency which allows students to set goals, execute decision-making power over their lives, and fulfill their dreams. This idea will offer a place for students on the move to belong and an opportunity to fulfill their full potential.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Our vision is to create an environment that fosters greater understanding and collaboration between refugee and host community students, where narratives about forced migrants amongst post-secondary students in Mexico are positive, and one where postsecondary institutions in Mexico are hospitable and free of barriers to education for youth on the move. We wish to create a national network of allies for refugee education and contribute to a greater sense of belonging and connection for refugee youth in Mexico. We hope that this initiative will result in the perception that youth on the move are assets rather than a burden. By creating a platform for refugee and host-students to co-advocate for refugee student inclusion, the project will build understanding and create “ambassadors” that demonstrate the positive contributions made by students on the move. We hope to create lasting friendships between diverse youth, and life-long commitments to forced migrant inclusion.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Only 1% of refugees have access to higher education, despite being highly qualified and motivated. Although refugees and migrants are an asset to society and make positive contributions to the economy and communities of their countries of asylum, structural barriers may prevent them from maximizing their potential. Additionally, negative rhetoric about migrants exacerbates challenges they face, and prevent them from fully participating in Mexican education systems and communities. In order to change restrictive policies, practices, and narratives, understanding the key issues and advocacy for change is needed. This initiative will build understanding and solidarity by creating bridges between youth on the move and Mexican youth. Together, they will raise awareness to build more hospitable campuses and communities, reduce xenophobia, and advocate for policies that allow for greater inclusion of refugees in universities and other tertiary institutions.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

This idea targets refugees in Mexico because they are a rapidly increasing population. The number of asylum seekers in Mexico have increased in the last 5 years: in 2013, 1,296 requested refugee status while July of 2019 the government reported a total of 39,383 cases. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of people from the Northern Triangle who have sought refuge in surrounding countries increased by 2,249%. Amongst them, students whose educations have been interrupted face uncertain futures. Due to policies that create barriers for those who have come from different academic systems and may have fled without academic documentation, few have the opportunity to continue their studies in Mexico. The idea specifically targets refugee students who wish to continue their studies on campuses in Mexico, environments that facilitate a sense of belonging and enable them to fulfill their full potential.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

This idea will leverage the strengths and assets of the university communities and students in Mexico. In general, university students are enthusiastic and open to receiving and promoting universal ideas and solidarity. The idea for student groups relies on the willingness of university students in Mexico to take up the cause and push for more inclusive policies and environments on campus. By involving university communities as allies, the beneficiaries are not only the refugees who will have improved access to higher education, but also host community students that will play an active role in the project. Classrooms and student experiences will be enriched, and post-secondary institutions, often leaders and influencers in their communities, will set an example within the broader society.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

This idea will be implemented in Mexico at 8 partner universities in 5 states across the country. A key partner in this initiative is World University Service of Canada (WUSC), a Canadian NGO currently providing technical assistance to Proyecto Habesha. This initiative builds on the peer-to-peer refugee student support and awareness raising model employed within WUSC’s 40 year old Student Refugee Program (SRP). The SRP is recognized by UNHCR as a leading global model for expanding access to higher education and improving integration outcomes for young refugees. WUSC’s 100 student groups are crucial to the program’s success, as Canadian students deepen their understanding and empathy while they support refugee integration and raise funds and awareness about barriers to refugee education and inclusion on their campus and in their community. This idea will adapt WUSC’s model to the Mexican context, and will receive guidance from WUSC based on lessons learned in Canada.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).

Group or Organization Name

Diálogo Intercultural de México Activo (Proyecto Habesha)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Habesha Project is an international, non-profit, apolitical, neutral and secular humanitarian initiative of Diálogo Intercultural de México Activo (DIMA) that gives young refugees the opportunity to pursue higher education in Mexico. Thanks to close cooperation between Mexican civil society, higher education institutions, and government agencies, the Project offers comprehensive support that helps students secure student visas, validate certificates for study in Mexico, provides intensive academic preparation courses, and helps them find full scholarships in prestigious Mexican universities. Upon admission to a university, Habesha supports students through their academic integration and to navigate their new campus environment on campus The Project considers the reception of refugees an asset to Mexico and an opportunity to promote intercultural dialogue and an international culture of peace. It was founded in solidarity with Syrians suffering humanitarian crisis in 2014, and, five yea

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State

Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Sevde Şengün

Hello Proyecto Habesha great to have your idea on the platform for the challenge. It's exciting and I really like your idea's touchpoints and your auido-visuals! As the ideas phase comes to an end within few hours, we would encourage you to again have a last look at the evaluation criteria here:
Also, it will be exciting for your to check out other ideas on the platform, provide some feedback and explore potential areas of collaboration with them! For example check out Deportees Connect: