Syria + 3 more

Bring children home from Syria camps before winter, says Save the Children after Norway orphan found

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The repatriation of a Norwegian orphan from a camp in North-East Syria this week should shame other governments into doing more to find and bring home their children before another winter sets in, Save the Children said.

Save the Children hoped the latest example of identifying and repatriating a child would lead to more children being returned home in the near future, with women and children from about 60 countries living in two camps for displaced people in NE Syria since the collapse of the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2019.

Gunvor Knag Fylkesnes, director of advocacy and communication in Save the Children Norway, said:

“We hope this latest repatriation means that the Norwegian authorities will bring home the remaining children and their mothers. Norway has legal obligations towards these children.

“For us, it’s completely unacceptable that any government knowingly and intentionally leaves children in what has been pointed out as a living hell, leaving them to be punished for something they have not done. We must bring them back home before it’s too late.”

A Save the Children report published in September found that everyday survival in the Al Hol and Roj camps in NE Syria for displaced people continues to be a struggle for the estimated 60,000 people living there which includes about 40,000 children. As well as Syrian and Iraqi nationals - many of whom fled from ISIS - there are women and children from some 60 other countries, many of whom lived under ISIS rule unwillingly.

The report found that in the first nine months of this year about 62 children, or about two every week, died of different causes in Al Hol. Only 40% of children in the camp were receiving an education and years of traumatic experiences were taking a toll on their mental health.

Sonia Khush, Director of Save the Children’s Syria Response, said:

“It’s a blessing that one more child has an opportunity to start a new life.

“But once again winter is setting in and we are seeing foreign children and their families in the camps failed repeatedly by their governments. Remaining governments must step up to their responsibilities and obligations, take responsibility for their nationals and repatriate children with their families in line with children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Last month the Danish and German governments repatriated 37 children and 11 women from the two camps. However, five other children were left behind after the Danish government withdrew citizenship from their mothers. It is estimated that around 100 women and children from Germany remain in the camps.

More than 1,225 children have been repatriated since 2017 - almost 56% in 2019. There was a steep decline in repatriations throughout 2020 and this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For further enquiries please contact:

Belinda.goldsmith@savethechildren.org

We have spokespeople available.

Our media out of hours (BST) contact is media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409