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New UN report highlights plight of Syrian refugee children

The UNHCR has warned that child refugees from Syria are paying a heavy price for the conflict in their home country. Among other things, they are suffering from physical or psychological wounds and a lack of education.

The report released by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR on Friday is based on research conducted through interviews with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and Jordan over a period of four months.

The UNHCR said that around half of the 2.2 million refugees registered by the United Nations were children and that many of these were working to help support their families, often doing menial labor on farms or in shops.

This may be at least in part due to the absence of one or both parents. The report found that 70,000 Syrian refugee families were fatherless and more than 3,700 child refugees had been separated from both their mothers and fathers.

The UNHCR in its report said even more disturbing was the finding that 29 percent of the children surveyed usually did not leave their makeshift homes more than once a week, because they felt insecure and isolated.

Their accommodation was often crammed apartments, tents or other temporary shelters, the report said.

Formal education halted

It also found that more than half of the school-aged Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are no longer receiving formal education.

The UNHCR estimated that around 200,000 such children would remain without schooling at the end of 2013.

The report also includes first hand accounts of suffering from some of the minors interviewed by UNHCR officers.

Traumatic memories

A 15-year-old youth cited in the report spoke of his distress after witnessing seven corpses near his home back in Syria.

"This is impossible to forget. It's like someone has stabbed me with a knife when I remember," the boy, identified as Taha said.

The report refers to the children quoted only by their first names in order to protect their families.

Another, 17-year-old Saha, described seeing "blood up to people's knees" back in Syria.

Multiple injuries

Apart from the psychological scars, the report said hundreds of children who have fled the conflict, had received physical injuries in the war. It said around 750 such children had been treated in hospitals in Lebanon in the first six months of 2013, while in Jordan, more than 1,000 had been treated for injuries stemming from the Syrian conflict.

A further problem was the fact that many infants were effectively stateless, with a recent UNHCR survey finding that 77 percent of Syrian refugee babies had not had their births registered, leaving them without official firth certificates.

pfd/ipj (AFP, dpa)