As global COVID-19 cases continue to surge, new reports have emerged of water shortages, dwindling services and diminished access to healthcare in a Syrian camp housing Australians.
Forty-seven Australian children and 19 women are currently languishing in Al-Hol camp in North East Syria following the fall of Islamic State in March 2019.
Save the Children Australia is calling on the Australian government to ensure the safety of its citizens with a view to repatriating them once borders open and quarantine requirements have been met.
“These Australian children have experienced horror, they are victims of the actions of adults and they cannot be left languishing with dwindling services in a squalid camp in North East Syria,” said Mat Tinkler, Deputy CEO of Save the Children.
“Most of these children, and their mothers, have been in the camp for more than a year now. The Australian government has had ample opportunity to bring them home but has so far failed to do so.
“As an immediate priority, the Australian government must ensure these Australian citizens have access to basic services like healthcare, food and water. As soon as movement is allowed, the Australians should be moved to safety, with a view to repatriation once health and quarantine requirements have been met.”
Mr Tinkler acknowledged COVID-19 created a new challenge to repatriation efforts.
“While COVID-19 adds an enormous layer of complexity to the situation, it cannot serve as an excuse to leave these Aussie kids there.
“We recently saw the first reported death in North East Syria due to COVID-19 and we’re extremely worried about the impact an outbreak would have in an overcrowded camp like Al-Hol, which would be almost impossible to contain.
“Many children in the camp, including Australians, are already sick and malnourished, making them more susceptible to the impacts of COVID-19. Australia must do everything possible to look after and protect these Australian children, who have done nothing wrong.
“All children who have lived under Islamic State are victims, and have experienced horrific, unthinkable violence, deprivation and bombardment.”
North East Syria is home to 1.35 million people in need, half of whom are children. Coronavirus tests are still not available in all areas across Syria.
For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.