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Syria: most refugee children would not return, report reveals

March 9, 2021 at 3:41 pm

Syrian children are seen at a refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon on 21 March, 2017 [Ratib Al Safadi/Anadolu Agency]

Most children displaced by the ongoing civil war in Syria cannot imagine returning to their home country, a report published by Save the Children has revealed. “Anywhere but Syria” was released by the NGO today.

The compilers of the report spoke to 1,900 displaced Syrian children in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, the Netherlands, and opposition-held areas of Syria. Eighty-six per cent of them said that they would not return to Syria and cannot imagine a future there, while a third said that they would rather live in another country. Only 29 per cent of the children in Lebanon, 3 per cent in Turkey, and 9 per cent in Jordan and the Netherlands said that they would return to Syria.

One seven-year-old girl named Lara lives in a camp in Maarat Al-Numan in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib. She told the charity, “I wish to live in any country other than Syria, where it’s safe, and there are schools and toys… It’s not safe here, the sound of dogs scares me, and the tent is not safe.”

Another girl named Nada, who is 17 and lives in Lebanon’s northern district of Akkar, said: “I don’t want to go back there. I don’t want to go back and live in Syria again.” She added that she doesn’t want to stay in Lebanon either. “No matter where I go, though, if we go to school, they bully us and tell us they don’t want us.”

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According to the report, education is a major factor in the children’s decision about where they’d like to live. Lebanon, especially, was said to be one of the most difficult of the host countries, as it is gripped by an economic crisis and political instability.

In Jordan, it is reported that 36 per cent of refugee children are not enrolled in any formal or informal education system, and around 80 per cent of refugees in the country live below the poverty line. Syrian refugees in the Netherlands are reported to fare much better, with 70 per cent of the Syrian children seeing a “positive future” there.

“Three main topics emerged as contributing to the experience of psycho-social safety for Syrian children growing up in displacement: access to meaningful future opportunities; a sense of connectedness; and agency in decision-making,” concluded the report. “Children have a right to grow up in an environment where they are free from constant fear for their safety, are not forced to live in displacement and fear of further uprooting, and are no longer discriminated against simply because of where they come from.”

Save the Children called on governments and host countries to increase the opportunities for resettlement to third countries for those refugees with the need for urgent protection. It called upon “all stakeholders” to protect the Syrian children from physical and psychological violence.

READ: UNICEF calls for end to terrorist recruitment of children and abuse in Syria