Syrian Refugee Children
The number of Syrian refugee children now exceeds one million.
A new report by the UNHCR documents the future prospects of a generation of Syrian youth who have been forced to flee a nation in the grips of civil war. In escaping from the barrage of violence, many of the children have had to come to terms with a whole host of new challenges – unfathomable to most adults.
The weight of such challenges can prove unbearable. Volker Turk, Director of international protection at UNHCR, says that many children have been “severely traumatised” by their disjointed and uncertain situation. Often young boys find themselves at the head of a household – their families bearing the intimate scars of war – and forced into work for meagre wages. A report by Unicef has estimated that one in 10 Syrian refugee children is engaged in child labour. In some areas, such as the Jordan Valley, the figure is much higher with nearly 49% of children forced to work.
The work is often grim and unrelenting. Long hours go unrewarded, scant pay and desperately poor conditions, received in return for a childhood lost. While the boys are sent to toil, young girls face an ever sadder, more isolating existence. Parents, harrowed by visions of war and death, shelter their young from the outside world, clasping too tightly to what they hold most dear.
Education is another huge problem. The education systems in Lebanon and Jordan – where the majority of refugees have fled – are bursting at the seams. In Lebanon the problem is so acute that Syrian refugee children of school age will soon outnumber their Lebanese peers. With both Lebanon and Jordan struggling to cope with the huge numbers of refugees flooding across their welcoming borders, there is a very real fear among humanitarian agencies that they could be forced to close the borders – and cutting off hope – unless greater international help is more forthcoming.
The Syrian conflict has robbed the refugees of – among many other things – a home. A home that drifts further and further from their reach as the seemingly interminable war drags ever onward. We must do everything in our power to bring peace to Syria and give the more than 1 million refugees a little bit of hope to cling to.
Harriet Grant & Lee Harper (2013) Syrian refugee children face “catastrophic” life in exile http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/nov/29/syrian-refugee-children-catastrophe-exile-un
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