The Tragedy of the Syrian Civil War:
The Migration of Syrian Children
Four years into the Syrian civil war, the number of families fleeing from Syria has escalated. More than 1.2 million Syrians are hosted across Europe and the Middle East. Moreover, women and children make-up three quarters of the migration population across hosted countries. The Syrian crisis has been described as a crisis for children wherein 110,000 children sought asylum from January to July 2015. Behind these numbers are the untold and dark stories of children migrants. Most Syrian children embark on a demanding exodus faced with various challenges along the journey. In September 2015, the image of three-year old Alan Kurdi’s body washed on a Turkish beach defined the Syrian civil war. Eight months later the image continues to provoke international dialogue surrounding children as the human face of conflict.
As the Syrian conflict ensues, Europe is confronted with the humanitarian responsibility to address and support all safety and placement measures. However, challenges have presented itself with the influx of migration patterns throughout Europe providing financial constrain in the region. As public sentiment widens and the conversation around Syrian settlement deepens, the international community is faced with staggering Mediterranean Sea and Aegean Sea death tolls. Moreover widening tension amongst countries. The men, women, and children attempting these perilous journeys are forced to seek security by taking their chances aboard unseaworthy boats and high possibilities of being separated from loved ones. According to UNHCR, 2 children drown everyday in the process of journeying to Europe.
More than 340 children have drowned in the eastern Mediterranean. In one instance, 10 children drowned when their boat was capsized en route to Greece in September 2015. According to the International Organization for Migration thus far 418 people have already drowned taking the perilous journey to Europe in 2016. In November 2015, Turkey pledged to stem the flow of refugees entering Europe to no avail. Overall, Turkey has spent $8.5 billion to accommodate the 2.2 million Syrians hosted in their country for the past 5 years. As international leaders grasp for a solution, many European countries struggle with the mass movement of Syrians and others have tightened border controls. With very little support, many European countries struggle to provide vital assistance especially with orphaned Syrian children. As the European Union focuses their efforts on stemming the flow of migrants, the union has failed to launch widespread searches and rescue operations across the Mediterranean Sea.
Advocating the rights of poor migrants is difficult as the economic climate remains unstable and European countries are divided over how to share the refugee burden. Many European countries have failed to honor pledges to resettle asylum seekers and continue to seal their borders. Although the EU has played an intricate role in financial supporting the influx of migration patterns, European countries such as Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and Bulgaria have closed their borders refusing to honor international responsibility to a humanitarian crisis. Overtime, it has become the desire for many European and Middle Eastern countries to regain control of their borders. Notably in Turkey, the country is more concerned with preventing illegal migration influx and has gone as far as using military firearms to protect their borders. Enforcing such fatal measures only diminishes the value and mission of humanity. Following the EU-Turkey Deal to curb migrant streaming through its territory in exchange of 3 billion euros, unaccompanied Syrians are thus left to perish. Moreover, due to border controls refugee children are trapped in the line of war and lack the right protection, information and services.
Resettlement is not the ending story for many refugees. Although resettlement can provide safety, security, and a certain level of normalcy for many refugee children, it can also be associated with stressors that can influence mental and academic outcomes. Resettled refugee children experience high levels of stress in their new environments that can derive feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression. Exposure to such stressors affects the child emotional and social stability.
Developing strong social support is a vital component to Syrian children’s mental and emotional health. Moreover, it is vital to increase resources to help refugee children cope with their current traumatizing experiences. When addressing the needs of Syrian children, the international community must consider strategies that will support the long-term wellbeing of children refugees.
The scale of the Syrian refugee crisis is hard to grasp. In particular, Syrian children are vulnerable and often exploited. The series of events that have transpired due to the Syrian crisis, has neglected children. If the international community is unable to act quickly, these young lives will become lasting casualties of a horrendous war. The unwavering commitment of neighboring countries’ to tackle the influx of migrants must be matched by international solidarity. Children have been unjustly drawn into this conflict and lack basic protection. The international community must do more to ensure the safety of Syrians children crossing water and land borders.
This post is summarized by Iesha Townsend for COIPI from:
1) Harris, Chris. “How Many Children Have Drowned Since Alan Kurdi and That Photo?”. Feb. 3 2016. Euro News. http://www.euronews.com/2016/03/01/how-many-migrant-children-have-drowned-since-alan-kurdi-and-that-photo/
2) Yardley, Jim. “Rising Toll on Migrants Leaves Europe in Crisis; 900 May be Dead at Sea”. April 20 2015. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/21/world/europe/european-union-immigration-migrant-ship-capsizes.html?_r=1
3) Robinson, Julian. “At Least 25 Migrants Include 1o Children Drown as Their Boat Capsized in the Aegean Sea During Crossing from Turkey”. March 7, 2016. Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3479246/At-18-migrants-drown-boat-capsizes-Aegean-Sea-crossing-Turkey.html