October 3 2022 10:00 PM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

When Syrians are afraid of their future

Amjad Yamien
Amjad Yamin (Photo: JNews)
At a certain time, the conflict in Syria seemed about to end — Daesh was defeated, states around the world were readying to return refugees, and diplomatic relationships seemed on their way to being restored, albeit with a cringe by some.اضافة اعلان

But 10 years into the brutal conflict that has killed any number of people — the last credible estimate was 400,000 people in 2016 — cost the country $442 billion it did not have, and forced more than 13 million of its people into more than 120 countries spanning the globe, the crisis continues to have a devastating toll on Syrians, particularly children.

And Syrian children are afraid. They continue to be killed and maimed, and they are kidnapped and detained, often indefinitely and without due process. They have their schools and hospitals destroyed and they are subjected to sexual violence and exploitation by armed groups.

It is no surprise that only 1 in 8 refugee children want to return to Syria.

However, the initial welcoming attitude towards Syrian refugees in many countries has worn thin; restrictions on legal residency, evictions targeting refugees, allegations of torture, and limited access to services and employment are just some examples of host country policies that push families back to a place they find unsafe. 

While more, for certain, can be done by host states towards respecting their own obligations under international human rights laws, and sometimes even their own domestic laws, you cannot blame countries for not doing something they cannot realistically do. For example, Lebanon cannot provide jobs to a million Syrian refugees while simultaneously battling its own economic woes, let alone with the impact of COVID-19 and its — often necessary — restriction measures.  As the fifth international donor conference on Syria is being put together, pledging states can do more to provide financial support that can ease both the economic and the political pressures facing the region, at the very least for shouldering the burden, but also for their influence to encourage states, in the region and in the EU, to uphold international refugee laws, and specifically the principle of non-refoulement. 

Prudent states should also lead by example — while Jordan currently hosts more than 660,000 Syrian refugees by some estimates, the United States only hosts around 17,000. 

Ultimately, the future of Syria should be defined by Syrians, and any support provided needs to reflect the needs, asks, and priorities of the Syrian displaced themselves, and all those involved need to work to include their perspectives into humanitarian support. 

Children are the future of Syria, but they are afraid of it. They have known nothing but horror stories from the country. They need an opportunity to fulfil their dreams, to have their rights restored, and to have access to a brighter future. And policy makers and countries around the world can play a part in making that happen.