European parliament calls for repatriation of children from Syrian camps

EU Parliament urges its member states to repatriate children from Northeast Syrian camps.

10 years have passed, since the outbreak of the revolution, but the situation of Syrians, particularly children, seems to be deteriorating. Despite international condemnation from the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), the Assad regime and violent extremist groups are not willing to end the conflict. Syria became a place for foreign intervention, terrorism and power struggles, but children and women are bearing the consequences.

“Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world”, Said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner.

The situation is even worse in Northeast Syria, an area controlled by the Kurds. After defeating the Islamic States (ISIS) in Northeast Syria, the Kurds held IS fighters and their families in prisons and detention camps, where children are treated inhumanely, and exposed to tremendous danger.

“In the northeast of Syria, there are more than 22,000 foreign children from at least 60 nationalities who languish in camps and prisons, in addition to many thousands of Syrian children,” UNICEF regional director Ted Chaiban said.

The UN has repeatedly demanded the reparation of these children to their home countries, or their integration into Syrian local communities. Earlier this month, a woman and 4 children were found dead in these detention camps, yet there was no media coverage. . The Kurdish authorities have been trying to facilitate the safe reparation of these children to their countries of origin, but with slow progress, given the fact that western countries are showing little interest to the issue .

“No one – most of all innocent children – should be living under the challenging and potentially dangerous humanitarian conditions in Al-Hol camp,” said the UN humanitarian agency.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has further deteriorated the situation. According to a report released by Save the Children, the number of children repatriated dropped to 200 in 2020, in comparison to 685 in 2019. While in the past three years a large number of children got safely repatriated to their homes, the outbreak of the global pandemic and the unwillingness of world leaders to address the situation have slowed down the progress.

“These new figures show that before the outbreak of the virus, things were finally starting to move in the right direction. But sadly, for many children, the opportunity for a better life has been put on hold as repatriations by international governments decreased notably throughout 2020”, said Save the Children’s Syria Response Director, Sonia Khush. “Last month France repatriated seven children, and in September a British child supported by Save the Children was taken back home to safety. It is possible to save a young life when the political will is there”, she added. .

Kazakhstan and Kosovo are among the very few countries that were able to address the issue effectively. Kazakhstan, for instance, has repatriated around 400 children to their home country. In addition, it opened re-integration centers in northeast Syria, where children and women received medical and psychological help. Similarly, Kosovo repatriated around 110 children in 2019. Experts believe that western countries are obliged to address the issue as soon as possible. Children are trapped in over-crowded camps, where they eat from the same plates and drink from the same bottles, but with the outbreak of the virus, they are exposed to tremendous danger. The so-called democracies should take all necessary measures to help these children. Indeed, their reparation will decrease the possibility of getting radicalized by their families, which in return, will definitely work for the interest of western states.

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