Save the Children has said that foreign kids related to extremist fighters and held in refugee camps in northeast Syria could be stuck there for 30 years if repatriations continue at the same rate.
“Children have been stuck in these terrible camps for at least three years now – some even longer. At the rate foreign governments are going, we will see some children reach middle age before they are able to leave these camps and return home,” Syria’s Response Director Sonia Khush said.
According to the charity there are 18,000 Iraqi children and 7,300 minors from 60 different countries in Al-Hold and Roj camps where they live in dire conditions. The Red Cross has described it as a “tragedy in plain sight.”
In October last year Save the Children said there were more than 60 British children trapped in northeast Syria. Many of them are under five and living in the camps.
Children have been murdered, injured during shootings, and have died from burns sustained in fires in the camps. Kids also die from illnesses contracted from dirty water, poor sanitation, and the dire healthcare available to them.
Older children who lived under ISIS have witnessed beheadings and need to recover from psychological and physical scars following years of conflict.
A 15-year-old Swiss girl who was repatriated in December last year suffered a shrapnel wound in her leg and needed three operations.
Western countries have accepted some of the children, but it is a slow process, said Khush.
“These children have done nothing wrong, yet instead of being free to be children – to go to school, play, live in safety and have access to decent shelter, healthcare, nutritious food and clean water – they are trapped in these squalid conditions thousands of miles from their homes, and put at risk on a daily basis.”