18 March 2016
As the war in Syria enters its sixth year with no sign of abating, two reports recently released by Save the Children and UNICEF highlight the dreadful conditions faced by children in the country. At least 250,000 children are currently living under siege in different areas of Syria, cut off from the outside world and effectively living in an open-air prison where vital supplies are not allowed, documents Save the Children’s Childhood under Siege. According to UNICEF, around 8.4 million children – of whom 3.7 million were born after the conflict began – are currently affected by the conflict.
“Here there are no children any more. Only small adults,” said Rihab, a woman living in eastern Ghouta near Damascus, interviewed by Save the Children. Even though the United Nations Security Council has passed six resolutions since 2014 demanding unobstructed humanitarian access, the number of people living under siege in Syria has more than doubled over the past year. Under these conditions, children die because they do not have access to healthcare or medicines, they starve as food piles up in warehouses outside of the areas under siege, they cannot attend schools and they live in constant fear of bombings.
UNICEF’s No Place for Children report documents over 1,500 grave violations of children’s rights in 2015 alone: children have no access to aid, health or education, are victims of killings and mutilations caused by explosive devices and indiscriminate bombings, and are forcibly conscripted by all parties to the conflict, with some even becoming executioners. Child recruitment is a particularly worrying trend affecting increasingly younger children, some as young as seven. The Islamic State group has filmed young children executing prisoners in their propaganda videos.
306,000 Syrian children have been born as refugees, a generation who has known nothing but displacement, hunger and trauma. Children currently constitute 35% of the total arrivals to Europe, with Syria being the top nationality among those arriving. On 30 March, UNHCR is organising a Ministerial-level meeting on Global Responsibility Sharing through pathways for the admission of Syrian refugees, to relieve the pressure on countries neighbouring Syria and currently hosting the vast majority of refugees, children included.
ECRE renews its calls to the EU to commit to the resettlement of half of the 10% identified by UNHCR as the global need of resettlement for Syrians.