Syrian crisis: the time for refugee families to return has not yet come
Over 2,6 million Syrian children and youth are still refugees in the countries bordering Syria. After eight years, the conflict might come to an end but their life won't get back to normal all of a sudden. Although the prospect of return could be considered as a potential solution, the conditions for voluntary return in safety and dignity are not yet met. Terre des hommes (Tdh) as well as other international NGOs recommend refraining from funding activities which organise refugee returns until protection measures are established.
In 2018, the end of large-scale fighting in many parts of Syria enabled more than one million internally displaced people to return to their area of origin. From the neighboring countries, UNHCR recorded some 42,700 spontaneous refugee returns the same year. The UN refugee agency has already forecasted 250,000 people to return in 2019.
According to Tdh staff working alongside with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, even though many families would like to go back to their country, they consider that risks are currently too high. The security situation inside Syria is still unstable. Overall, the main issues affecting their decision to return relate to physical risks, availability of essential services, including access to education, health care and livelihood opportunities, conscription to army, and fear of punishment for having fled or refused to fight on the side of the regime. Legal obstacles and challenges in reclaiming property or having access to civil status documentation were also mentioned as key issues.
Challenges remain huge
In Lebanon and Jordan, some families have also found job opportunities. "They are working here and earning money. There is no need for them to go back to Syria", one Tdh staff mentions. However, challenges remain huge for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and the situation keeps deteriorating: in Jordan, 80% of Syrian refugees living outside the camps live below the poverty line. In Egypt, 85% are unable to meet their basic needs. Child protection risks such as child marriage, sexual and gender-based violence, child labour including its worst forms are increasing. More than one in three children aged between 5 and 17 years remain out of school across the region. Poverty among refugees has a direct and terrible impact on children and youth and mortgages their future.
In Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, Tdh and its partners have worked throughout the year to protect more than 130,000 most vulnerable children, youth and their relatives affected by the Syrian crisis in 2018. In those three countries, in collaboration with local partners, Tdh has provided assistance to children such as non-formal education, mental health and psychosocial support.
Photo credit: © Tdh