Syrian refugees: the risk of losing a whole generation

À propos “war of the heads”, which until recently was a big topic in the fight against terror, against extremist ideologies and bloodshed: what happens to the generation that is now growing up in refugee camps?

Source: Gianmarco Maraviglia

The original article has been published in Heise.de by Thomas Panny. Translation and editing by Defenseweek’s team.


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Distance learning works even less in the makeshift refugee shelters where millions live. Illiteracy “rose alarmingly”

À propos “war of the heads”, which until recently was a big topic in the fight against terror, against extremist ideologies and bloodshed: what happens to the generation that is now growing up in refugee camps?

The dimension of the problem is considerable. A Norwegian organization has 50.8 million internally displaced people worldwide. At the end of 2019, 45.7 million refugees had fled to other places in 61 countries to escape conflict. A further 5.1 million had to leave their homes due to natural disasters, according to the latest summary from the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Monitoring Center – IDMC, which specializes in data analysis of internally displaced people.

The current IDMC management report (also here) lists 33.4 million new “internal displacements” in 145 countries and regions in 2019. If you look at the info graphic with the heading “Conflict and violence”, you will find Syria at the top. The bar shows around 1.85 million new refugees or displaced persons. The report explains:

“(…) in the most common cases (is the escape, introduction) the result of the military offensives in the northeast and northwest of the country. About 6.5 million people lived in internal displacements at the end of the year. That is the highest number in the world.” IDMC report

“Internal displacements” is difficult to describe in an equally short German term. This means a whole range of makeshift options for the displaced or refugees. In the best and probably rarer case, the refugees find their own accommodation, in the next best case with relatives, friends or acquaintances, in the worse case in more or less well looked after and looked after refugee camps and in the miserable cases in unfinished buildings, ruins or in the open field.

Abused politically as a means to an end

The fates are similar in one: they are at the bottom of the hierarchy of importance, they have no political priority. At the same time, they are politically exploited as a quantity or mass.

The Turkish government provided illustrative material for this aim in early March this year with political blackmail based on orchestrated transports and maneuvers with refugees to the Turkish-Greek border (refugees caught). The extortion works, of course, because the refugees in the EU and Germany are also politically exploited. They are the political capital of the new right.

What the Turkish journalist Mahmut Bozarslan currently reports on the situation of Syrian refugees in southern Turkey can be read as a zoom to the global overview of the IDMC management report. He has an eye on the living conditions of Syrian refugees in the Kurdish south of Turkey, in the province of Dyarbakir.

Fight for survival in Corona times

About 22,000 are housed in the city of the same name, the region offers itself as a “refugee reception area” because of its proximity to Syria, Bozarslan writes in al-Monitor. According to his biography, Bozarslan also worked for the government-friendly Turkish newspaper al-Sahab. One could therefore expect that he would not blindly report unilaterally. In total, Turkey is home to 4 million Syrian refugees who are spread across Turkey – “and are among the most vulnerable to the Sars CoV-2 epidemic”.

According to current information, it is not the feared spread of the virus that is causing the lives of the refugees that are in greatest difficulty, but the measures and political priorities of the government in Ankara. The result is brief: the refugees break away from earning opportunities. Her jobs in informal sectors have disappeared. Cases are described where one earner brings money for two families.

Turkey officially claims to provide equal care for all residents of its country. According to the al-Monitor report, however, it practically appears that health care is characterized by a cynical “social distancing”: the help is given to others. They are also the last in line when it comes to distributing the nasal masks. So far, the supplies of the protective masks have not reached this far.

The school is canceled

Classes are also bad. The school is canceled. If teaching children from refugee families has been a problem for many years and has regularly appeared on the agenda of UN refugee aid organizations or NGOs, the situation has become even more difficult. Distance learning needs a working computer, a good internet connection and good language skills.

According to the circumstances that Bozarslan describes for al-Monitor, not every family has a computer. Apparently, some choose the smartphone to be taught remotely, according to an individual case described by an adult, which, however, does not report good results.

The situation reported by internally displaced people in Syria is similar when it comes to the training of younger people. The level of illiteracy in the region has increased in a frightening way, especially among the residents of refugee camps, says an opposition activist from the north of Idlib. He was interviewed by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, who has good contacts with residents, militants and officials in Idlib, which has already made itself felt in several interviews.
Adolescents and women who have never been to school

Beyond the political camps and trench warfare, they always give an insight into ways of life that are no longer covered by well-known international media. Former chairman of a local council in Idlib, Abd al-Majeed Sharif, said in an interview that “there are many adolescents who have never been to school not to speak of women. The majority of internally displaced people believe that that you no longer have to teach them “.

Abd al-Majeed Sharif says that schools were turned into refugee camps for internally displaced people, which ended the lessons, but he had not been good before. He describes cramped conditions, which he compares with the density of the residents in the Gaza Strip. There are also power outages and major problems with the water supply. Health care is such that only minor illnesses can be managed. All difficult cases would be brought to Turkey, which would also pose major problems.

According to information from the Guardian, according to government officials, Turkey has sent 500,000 protective masks for medical personnel to the United States. So there should also be a reservoir of protective clothing for medical care for refugees in Turkey?

So far, the alarms about what could happen if Sars-CoV-2 reaches refugee camps have not come true. As a reason, several factors are usually given, first of all that no or little testing is done, then the strong isolation of the camp from outside life, which is now more isolated due to the measures against covid-19, and the low average age of the camp residents, among whom there are many children.

Given the developments that are exacerbated in Corona times – see, for example, the gigantic dollar and banking crisis in Lebanon, where around 1.5 million Syrian refugees are living, who are just getting worse – the situation of children growing up in refugee camps is one Cause for great alarm.