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Syrian asylum seekers are ‘well educated,’ Austrian survey finds

Migrants walk towards the Austrian border after resting in a makeshift camp in the village of Sentilj, Slovenia, October 24, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

A survey conducted by an Austrian government agency found that many asylum seekers from the Middle East had levels of education that were in some cases higher than that of most out-of-work Austrians.

Over the last few months, the country's Public Employment Service administered "competency checks" on around 900 asylum seekers. According to the Local, the results "impressed" Austrian officials:

Around 90 percent of Iranians who took part in the competency check had completed training and further education after leaving high school. Around 70 percent of Syrians had done the same. Around 40 percent of refugees from Iran and Iraq had university degrees.

This is perhaps not too surprising. Many of the Syrian refugees who have been able to make the journey to Europe over the past year boast degrees, qualifications and financial means greater than other compatriots stranded at home or in bleak conditions in countries neighboring Syria. The U.N. refugee agency has warned repeatedly of the threat facing an entire generation of Syrian children, many of whom are not able to attend school.

Austrian authorities believe some 30,000 refugees will enter the labor market in 2016, nearly double the figure from 2015. Officials want to see these asylum seekers brought rapidly into the mainstream workforce, though they recognize that the challenge of integration won't be easy, given the obstacles of language as well as the trauma experienced by many fleeing war-torn, imploding societies.

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