Seven children and four women from Roj camp in North East Syria were repatriated to Germany last night, in a move welcomed by Save the Children. The child rights agency is calling on other states to take similar urgent action, as some 11,000 foreign children and women remain in Roj and Al-Hol camps, where the risks to children have only become greater due to an outbreak of cholera and reports of increasing violence.
The move by Germany comes after reports from several other countries in recent days regarding possible repatriation of children and mothers from the camps. This is the second repatriation of German nationals from the camps this year, with the total number of children repatriated to Germany now at 76, as well as 26 women.
Deteriorating and life-threatening conditions mean repatriations need to be urgently sped up from Roj and Al-Hol camps, which are no place for children, Save the Children said. Only last month, a 6-year-old Russian child reportedly died after being run over by a truck in the Al Hol Annex camp, while other children recently witnessed their mother’s dead body abandoned by the side of the road as killings in the camp increased by 250% in the second quarter of this year.
Save the Children research from a year ago said that children left in the camps are “wasting away”, with crumbling healthcare and education services, and more than half of households in Roj being aware of child labour among children under the age of 11.
Beat Rohr, Syria Response Director for Save the Children said:
“It’s wonderful to see Germany taking positive steps to protect children’s rights and bring their perilous stay in these camps to an end. Make no mistake, for these seven children this is a life-changing, even lifesaving, decision. Other countries must follow this example and urgently bring their children home before winter comes and makes the already unbearable conditions even worse.”
Last month, the European Court for Human Rights ordered the French Government to review the cases of several of their citizens, including three children, stuck in camps in North East Syria. These children are yet to be brought to France. The Court’s decision and ongoing repatriations by different countries show how unsustainable and unjust the situation is, Save the Children said.
Equally important, durable solutions are desperately needed for thousands of Syrian children as well, who still face harsh conditions and a bleak outlook for their future in the camps.
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
In total, 252 children and 93 women have been repatriated in 2022. Yet around 11,000 foreign children and women remain in camps in North East Syria.
Save the Children is calling on all states with child nationals in Syria to:
Recognise and treat children primarily as victims of war, even those who had been forced to join ISIS,
Repatriate nationals without any further delays and support their reintegration into their home country,
Guarantee basic rights and address urgent humanitarian needs,
Release arbitrarily detained children and reunite them with their families,
Commit to non-discrimination and equal justice.
As well as the safe and dignified return of children and their families to their places of origin, Save the Children is calling for expanded humanitarian response in the camps to meet the needs of foreign children while they await repatriation, as well as for Syrian children who remain in the camps.
The best interest of the child is one of the four general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and set out in Article 3(1). The Committee on the Rights of the Child sets out the three-fold nature of the concept: that it is a substantial right of children to have their best interests assessed and taken as the primary consideration in decision-making; a fundamental legal principle, meaning that in the case of legal ambiguity, any provision should be read in a manner that best services their best interest; and a rule of the procedure so that all decision-making must include an evaluation of the possible impact of a decision on a child or group of children.
Save the Children provides protection and support services in Al Hol and Roj camp, including child-friendly spaces. This includes recreational activities, such as sport, music, art, and storytelling, combined with psychosocial support. Save the Children also provides specialised case management support for children with particular needs as well as nutrition and education services.