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    An elderly refugee man stands with children as they wait for the arrival of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, EU Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans (all not pictured) at Nizip refugee camp near Gaziantep, Turkey, April 23, 2016.s

    'My Future' is 'Nothing': Syrian Child Refugees Have No Access to Education

    © REUTERS / Umit Bektas
    Middle East
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    Syrian child refugees not only have to face the prospect of war, displacement, poverty, and even death, but many also have no access to education, once they have fled their war-torn homes and end up working in sweatshops.

    An investigation by Human Rights Watch has revealed how serious the lack of access to education for Syrian children is and has also shown that many of them end up working in sweatshops as opposed to attending school.

    The report highlights the case study of one young boy named Mohammed, who is nine years old. He has not attended school since 2012, as his home town of Aleppo was taken over by armed forces.

    His family fled to Turkey in early 2015, and now reside in the city of Mersin. Mohammed lives in a small apartment and sleeps on the floor. In the report he explains how he misses going to school and would now be in third grade.

    "I was one of the best in my class, and I really liked learning how to read. But now we don't even have any books or anything that I can use to study on my own," Mohammed said.

    Mohammed now works eleven-hour daily shifts at a garment workshop, where he earns 50 Turkish lira (approximately US$18) per week.

    He is not the only child to suffer exploitation like this as a result of the war. As many children in Turkey and even those who have arrived on EU shores cannot go to school, they end up being trafficked and exploited.

    Jakub Sobik, press manager at the charity Anti-Slavery, said he was not surprised that these children end up being trafficked.

    "I don't know the exact details of Turkey's policy, whether [it] helps refugees from Syria. Obviously the sheer number of them [refugees] makes it difficult," Jakub Sobik told Sputnik.

    "What needs to happen is that European countries need to work on setting up safe migration routes and do more to organize safe migration channels and not leave them [refugees] at the mercy of finding an alternative.

    "Trafficking will happen if you do not have a safe place, they will try to find routes and ways to move away from Syria and to find some kind of way to sustain their life. You can crack down and be tough on traffickers, but the fact these people cannot leave Syria safely is what is leaving them in a vulnerable position," Sobik told Sputnik.

    HRW statistics have shown that prior to the conflict, 99 per cent of children were enrolled in primary school in Syria. Now 3 million Syrian children inside and outside the country are out of school, according to UNICEF.

    Within the refugee camps run by Turkey, 90 per cent of school-aged Syrian children receive education. However, these children represent just 13 per cent of Syrian refugee school-aged children in Turkey. The majority of Syrian school-aged children live outside the refugee camp, where enrollment is lower, and only 25 per cent attend school.

    This investigation comes shortly after the European Commission announced this week a new proposal to help EU countries to facilitate the needs of refugees, who are arriving on EU shores, as well as making routes safer for them to travel.

    Sharing this responsibility will mean countries such as Turkey, Greece and Italy will not be overwhelmed. Meaning more countries will take in refugees, and in doing that assist them with education and prevent them from being trafficked.

    "It is absolutely right that all countries within the EU should share responsibility… this means it won't leave a huge amount of people at risk of being trafficked. It would be a failure of any country not to help," Sobik told Sputnik.

    Under international law, the Turkish government is obligated to provide children with free and compulsory education. They have made positive steps to do this, by lifting the legal barriers to formal education access for Syrian children.

    However, Turkey has yet to succeed in making education available to the majority of Syrian refugee children, especially those living outside the camps; some of whom have lost years of schooling and can see no hope or a future.


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    refugee children, refugee camp, education, children, school, Syrian conflict, slavery, refugees, trafficking, Human Rights Watch, Turkey, Syria
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