Habesha Americas is a project that provides access to higher education for young persons with a refugee status who are already residing in Mexico. The project is implemented in partnership with the International Institute of Education (IIE). As part of this collaboration, the Habesha Americas/IIE Odyssey Scholarship was created. Habesha Americas is aligned with UNHCR’s education strategy, which seeks to increase refugees’ access to higher education from 5% to 15% by 2030.
Asylum applications in Mexico have increased by nearly 4,000% since 2015, primarily from applicants from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as from South America, particularly Venezuela. During this time, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes due to various factors such as poverty, food insecurity, gang or gender-based violence, rights violations, and others. 23% of refugee claims in Mexico represent children and adolescents, nearly 2,000 of whom enter the country unaccompanied each year. For these young people, the opportunity to continue their studies can be life-changing, providing them with future prospects that have been lost due to displacement. Yet this is one of the most underfunded areas of humanitarian assistance, often seen as a luxury rather than a necessity.
When young refugees have the possibility to pursue quality education and achieve their dreams, they can positively transform not only their own lives, but also those of their host and home communities by contributing to increased expertise, diversity, and awareness, which in turn leads to a more inclusive and resilient society.
While Mexico’s importance as a destination country for refugees has increased significantly in recent years, this phenomenon is not new. Mexico has been a host country for various migration flows for over 100 years, including returning migrants, providing a safe haven for political exiles, receiving migrants from around the world in response to various global crises, and serving as an area for transit situations that can last months or even years.
Therefore, Mexican civil society is particularly well positioned to become a welcoming space for diversity, to respond to the urgent needs of those who find themselves in precarious situations, and to benefit from the increased integration and knowledge that each individual can bring. Through the Habesha Americas project, our team at DIME is leveraging these strengths already present in our country by building new mutually enriching networks for education and social cohesion, supporting the national and global goals of access to quality education for all, taking into account the individual context, equality, and inclusion of each person.
At DIME, we recognize the challenges that pursuing higher education in a host country can present for young refugees. That is why we have developed a comprehensive working model that enables us to support students all the way through to their graduation from a Mexican university.
In the Habesha Americas project, the HABESHA AMERICAS/IIE ODYSSEY SCHOLARSHIP thoroughly supports students with the following:
Thanks to the alliances formed, some of the best Mexican higher education institutions offer full scholarships to students in the DIME Higher Education Program. This allows students to overcome the financial hurdles that many are likely to face in accessing higher education.
A rigorous follow-up system is implemented to continuously monitor and regularly assess the students’ academic performance and overall well-being. It includes detailed semester reports, migration support, medical support, academic support, scheduled visits, and, if desired, integration activities during the academic holidays.
Through the Habesha Americas Project, each student receives health insurance coverage until graduation. This is a public health insurance offered by the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) and includes medical assistance, surgical procedures, pharmaceutical assistance, hospital assistance, and maternity care. The insurance is renewed annually.
DIME provides students with a monthly allowance. This monthly allowance covers the cost of housing and the basic needs of students during their studies. The amount varies somewhat by city of residence. After the fifth (for bachelor’s) and third (master’s) semester, the amount of the subsidy decreases; however, by this time, students have typically already found a part-time job and adjusted to their academic load with the help of DIME.
DIME has established a network of businesses to help students find employment during and after their studies. In addition, DIME offers workshops and mentoring/expert guidance in the students’ fields of study. The workshops mainly address topics such as starting a career, writing a good resume, getting to know the work culture in Mexico and identifying good workplaces.
All students in the Higher Education for Refugees Program are invited to participate in the annual leadership meeting held once a year in Aguascalientes City. During the event, students have the opportunity to interact with other students and take part in various sessions, including capacity-building workshops, lectures, and discussions. The goal is to enable Habesha Project students to more actively engage in Mexican society, strengthen the refugee leadership ecosystems, and increase their participation in decision-making processes in meaningful, sustainable, and transformative ways.
Students in the Habesha project receive a laptop so that they can successfully integrate into their university classes.
Students whose academic degrees from their country of origin are not yet valid in Mexico are advised and assisted by the program in revalidating their degrees obtained in other countries.
In some cases, the academic offer that meets the students’ expectations cannot be found in the city where they live, so the students have to relocate to another city. In these cases, they are assisted with transportation and temporary housing (e.g., a hotel) until they are settled and have found suitable accommodations to begin their studies.
*Funded by the Institute of International Education (IIE)
[email protected]+52 449 110 75 78Francisco I. Madero 802, Barrio de la EstaciónC.P. 20259 Aguascalientes, Ags.México