22 March 2024 - Syria


Save the Children press release

AMMAN, 22 March 2024 - Almost 50% fewer foreign children and women have been repatriated so far this year compared to the same period last year from camps in Syria housing people displaced from the collapse of ISIS, marking a step back in progress, said Save the Children.

Five years after the fall of Al-Baghouz - the last Syrian village controlled by ISIS – at least 6,160 children [1] of foreign nationality are still trapped in Al Hol and Roj camps in Syria living in dire conditions. Over 70% of the total population of the camps are under 12, according to the United Nations [2].

So far this year, only Kyrgyzstan has repatriated 99 of its nationals, including 72 children and 27 women. This figure represents almost half (45%) the number for the same period in 2023, when over 180 nationals were repatriated from eight countries, including Spain, France, and Canada.

The disappointing trend shows a step in the wrong direction, said Save the Children, with Sweden even announcing last month that it would not take back any more children from camps in Syria. The appalling decision would condemn children to poor conditions and violence in the camps. [3].

Child repatriations from camps in Syria numbered around 497 in 2023, 388 in 2022, and 324 in 2021 [4], showing a steady decline.

Thousands more Iraqi and Syrian children are also in the camps waiting for an opportunity to safely leave, including hundreds trapped in separate detention centres.

Humanitarian conditions in the camps are dire – there’s a lack of food, water and few washing facilities – amid overcrowding and widespread violence and insecurity.  A recent security operation in January halted access to NGOs for two weeks, pausing all non-emergency services.

Emily*, 17, has been living in a camp in Northeast Syria with her three sisters and mother since 2019.  Unable to attend full-time education, she draws artwork of her homeland:

“Even though my country and people forgot about me, I am still here, wanting them to see that I am holding onto colours and brushes to draw, not weapons. I am trying to show the world a different side of me. I miss walking on roads lined with green trees. This is the sort of thing that I have not done since coming to Syria.”

Her mother, Ayesha*, 40, said:

“It hurts my heart when my girls blame me for their life inside this camp. They say they are dying slowly here, that life feels like a slow death. Six months after arriving in Syria, my husband was killed. I was unable to return to my country…They say that if we were back home, they would be going to high school now. It is heartbreaking for a mother not to be able to change things their children want, like where they live.”

Rasha Muhrez, Country Director for the Syria Response Office, said:

“We need more safe repatriations – not less.  For five years, children have been trapped in these awful camps, abandoned by their governments. They deserve safety, education, and care. Fewer repatriations shows that governments are turning their backs on these children. Governments ignore their duty, leaving children stuck in misery. 

Save the Children has been working in Syria since 2012, reaching over five million people, including more than three million children across the country.  We provide protection and support services in Al Hol and Roj including child friendly spaces, specialised case management support for children with particular needs as well as nutrition and education services.


[1 & 4] Internal Save the Children tracker

[2] UN - https://documents.un.org/doc/undoc/gen/n24/017/61/pdf/n2401761.pdf?token=cPIqsibxrtcD7HfPM9&fe=true

[3] Save the Children Sweden PR - https://press.raddabarnen.se/news/uttalande-om-regeringens-beslut-att-inte-ta-hem-de-svenska-barnen-fraan-laegren-i-syrien-481177


For further enquiries please contact: Soraya.ali@savethechildren.org (based in Amman)

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