Four years ago, Asef Iyad Abu Saab, a 29-year-old Syrian, obtained a religious visa to visit Najaf in Iraq, hoping to travel from there to Europe to complete his university studies. Instead, he found himself stuck in Iraq working in a restaurant.
A third-year dentistry student at the University of Aleppo, Abu Saab had no hope of graduating in war-torn Syria. But his life has now changed, thanks to a United Nations initiative supported by Iraq and Norway.
“I traveled to Iraq in the hope of reaching Europe to complete my education and start a new life. However, that was not possible, so I started working,” he said. “When I learned about the opportunity to complete my education and obtain an equivalent for my diploma, I immediately applied and obtained a qualifications passport.”
The Unesco Qualifications Passport for Refugees and Vulnerable Migrants is designed to enable host countries to validate refugees’ academic credentials and thus improve their access to higher education and work. The concept was first tested in Norway five years ago, and Iraq is now the first Arab country to issue the passports. (See a related article, “Norway Develops ‘Qualifications Passport’ for Refugees.”)