Over 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not being educated, Human Rights Watch has said in a new report. Lack of schooling puts a whole generation in jeopardy and threatens to push more refugees to Europe.
The 62-page report released by Human Rights Watch on Monday has called for Turkey and the international community to improve educational opportunities for refugee children.
"Failing to provide Syrian children with education puts an entire generation at risk," said Stephanie Gee of HRW's refugee rights program. "With no real hope for a better future, desperate Syrian refugees may end up putting their lives on the line to return to Syria or take dangerous journeys to Europe."
More than 600,000 migrants, mostly from Syria, have made the dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greece this year as Europe struggles to deal with a wave of refugees.
Turkey hosts more than 2 million Syrian refugees, nearly 708,000 of whom are children. While the school enrollment rate inside refugee camps is a respectable 90 percent, it stands at only 25 percent outside of the camps, where most refugees live, HRW said.
According to UNICEF, Syria had 99 percent primary education enrollment before the war, but now nearly three million Syrian children inside and outside the country are out of school.
In September 2014, the Turkish government implemented a new policy allowing registered Syrian refugees access to public education. The Ministry of Education also began accrediting so-called "temporary education centers" run by NGOs and local communities offering Arabic instruction.
However, there are still many obstacles to education, HRW said, including a language barrier, lack of information and economic hardship. Turkey does not provide Syrian refugees with work permits, forcing many parents and children to work under the table for below minimum wage, HRW added.
The rights group said that providing parents access to work permits would help not only boost school enrollment among their children, but would also lessen the need for assistance. Turkey says it has spent nearly $7 billion to host refugees since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, including $252 million on Syrian refugee education in 2014-2015.
HRW urged international donors and Turkey to refocus on education and provide necessary levels of assistance in order to avoid future problems among the refugee population.
"Securing these children's education will reduce the risks of early marriage and military recruitment of children by armed groups, stabilize their economic future by increasing their earning potential, and ensure that today's young Syrians will be better equipped to confront uncertain futures," HRW said.