22 January 2016

Syrian refugees are often trafficked or exploited as they are no longer able to meet their basic needs. Investment in infrastructure and humanitarian aid in the main hosting countries is essential, reveals a new study by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).

The report, entitled ‘Targeting vulnerabilities’ shows how Syrians – after having been fleeing their homes for almost five years – are  desperately in need to find new homes, new incomes and education for their children. They are likely to have been subject to the trauma of violence and the loss of family members and friends, and are in urgent need of physical and mental healthcare. In many cases, even if they have a legal right, there are simply no jobs, accommodation or school places available, and public services such as healthcare are overwhelmed. Many are living in regions under the control of armed groups in Syria and Iraq, and states and regions at war face serious challenges in providing for basic needs, let alone protecting people from trafficking. Basic needs also include the right to live in safety, and to be able to plan for the future.

‘Neither of these things is possible in Syria as long as the war continues, and both are challenging in the host countries. All of these aspects contribute to people’s situations of vulnerability to trafficking in persons – a severe violation of their human rights -, as well as in themselves constituting violations of other rights,’ the report concludes.

The complexity of their situations is influenced by the war and violence itself, but also by the legal and institutional systems that the children, women and men fleeing war must navigate within Syria and in the four hosting countries. Syrians’ legal status in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq does not usually allow them to work.

Refugees intending to seek safety in Europe must pay large sums of money, and maybe even go into debt, to migrant smugglers. One major risk is that a situation of migrant smuggling can develop into one of human trafficking.

The capacities of the governments Syria’s neighbouring countries are significantly affected by the ongoing war and the arrival of large groups of people fleeing Syria. In this context, the study recommends a substantial investment in infrastructure in hosting countries in the region, as well as resettlement to safe countries outside the region, particularly in the EU.

For further information:


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 22 January 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.