Refugee Children Face Horrors and Hardships in Middle East


Refugee Children Vulnerable To Exploitation and Danger

Since the first spurt of Arab Spring and the ISIS plague of terror in Middle East, the number of children refugees continues to rise and they continue to be confronted by horrors and hardship.

In her remarks at the First Regional Conference dedicated to the Protection of Refugee Children and Adolescents at Sharjah in UAE, Assistant Secretary of Anne C. Richard for Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration said children in the Middle East have been blown apart by bombs at elementary schools, sold as sex slaves and forced to fight.

Millions of Children Driven From Their Homes in Syria

An aerial view of Za’atri refugee camp, host to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict, near Mafraq, Jordan.

UN Phototo

According to Ms. Richard, recently hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in Iraq as well as children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Hundreds also were bound for North Africa and had walked from Eritrea to a camp in Ethiopia.

“Many were utterly alone.” – Ms. Richard

Some also had fled ruthless repression, hopelessness, and military service without end. And, some of them maybe subjected to smugglers and traffickers that could easily kidnap, rob, or rape them.

“By cooperating more effectively, I believe we can offer more and better protection to these vulnerable refugee children and adolescents. So I am very pleased that we have gathered for this conference,” she said.

Children inside a classroom at Za’atri refugee camp, host to tens of thousands of Syrians displaced by conflict, near Mafraq, Jordan.

Children Face Danger Long After Fleeing Bullets, Bombs

According to Ms. Richard, refugee children and adolescents also shoulder burdens they should not, because families are fractured, or because years of exile have stripped them of their money, their dignity, and their patience.

In addition, more and more children are working, often in jobs that jeopardize their health or their futures because their families need the cash.

The worst thing also, refugee girls and adolescents face sexual exploitation and abuse. There are reports that some of those who wield power over refugees have extorted sexual favors.

One of the consequences of the turmoil in the region is that many Syrian refugee girls are not allowed to attend school or even leave their homes because it’s considered too dangerous. And some are forced to marry because of such circumstances as exchange for money.

US Response To Meeting Refugees’ Basic Needs

As a country committed to help those in need, the US reiterated its commitment to protecting girls, providing quality, education and proper documentation for refugee children.

Ms. Richard highlighted that donors, aid agencies, and host governments can work together to help children be and feel safer.

She said specialized training can help aid workers care for and counsel children.

As humanitarians and donors, countries must hold themselves to the highest possible standard. In addition, countries hosting refugee children can also consider tightening certain laws or stepping up enforcement of existing laws to prevent forced early marriage and the worst forms of child labor.

Access to good schools can insulate refugee children from many hazards. Ms. Richard explained that being in school lowers the risk that children will be recruited to fight.

The United States is committing millions of dollars for education programs through organizations like UNICEF, UNHCR, UNRWA, and international non-governmental organizations.

In addition, in 2011, the U.S. Department of State launched an initiative to promote women’s equal right to nationality. It seeks legal reforms in the 27 countries where women lack this right, and pushes for registration of all children at birth.

US Responds to Refugee Crisis Around the World

Saying that 2012 has been a tough year for humanitarians trying to help displaced people around the world, the United States of America revealed a 2012 report on how US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration responded to the refugee crisis globally.

Here is how US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration PRM has responded:

In 2012 in Syria, 40,000 people were killed, over 2 million are displaced inside Syria and over half a million people fled to neighboring countries.

According to Ms. Richard, the U.S. Government provided $210 million in humanitarian aid to the region and its aid is reaching millions.

In Africa, in 2012, new refugees flee violence and drought in Northern Mali and fighting in Sudan, and even more displacement in the conflict-ravaged eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The PRM is engaged in emergency response and routinely carry out monitoring and evaluation visits to ensure U.S.-funded aid is well spent and reaching the people who need it.

In Afghanistan, Ms. Richard said PRM helped repatriate and reintegrate over 83,000 Afghans who returned home in 2012. The handover of NGO-run health clinics to the Ministry of Health was formalized.

The US supports UNHCR’s Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees, which works with Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to protect refugees until they can return home safely and voluntarily and to find permanent homes for them when they do return.

With regards to refugee resettlement, the three millionth refugee admitted to the United States since 1975 arrived in February 2012.

In the Balkans, with the active support of US embassies in the region, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary David Robinson led efforts to find permanent homes for 74,000 people displaced during the 1991-1995 armed conflicts in the Balkans.

In addition, the PRM has led the U.S. delegation to the 45th session of the UN Commission on Population and Development in April and secured a resolution addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents and youth and their human rights.

The PRM spearheaded a successful effort in the UN Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution on “The Right to a Nationality” for women.

In December 2011, the United States announced an initial contribution of $125 million toward the 2012 operations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

U.S. funding supports the provision of water, shelter, food, healthcare, and education to refugees, internally displaced persons, and other persons under UNHCR’s care and protection in countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Nepal, Pakistan, Georgia, South Sudan, Chad, and Kenya. The contribution will support UNHCR’s Annual and Supplementary Program activities listed below:

In 2011, the United States ultimately contributed more than $690 million to UNHCR through multiple tranches, a figure which included funding for on-going operations as well as special appeals for emergencies. We continue to salute the vital work of UNHCR, its many NGO partners, and refugee-hosting countries in providing protection to displaced populations around the world.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.