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The Children Abandoned in Syria

Drury F, ‘Islamic State: Thousands of foreign children in Syrian Camps’ (BBC News, 21 February 2019) <> accessed 07 March 2019

The conflict in Syria has long been a prevalent topic within the news with a number of different stories released regularly in order to outline new developments. There are, however, some aspects of this which are less publicised by the media and so the public are left unaware about a number of different atrocities which have occurred in recent months. One of these issues surrounds the story of the children who have been left trapped in Syrian camps after being taken to the country, most often, by their fathers. Although the story has been brought to the public’s attention by recent pleas from a number of women to return to their home countries, the reports have not been focussed upon the rights of the children who were taken there against their will.

Who are the children?

The children being held within these camps are believed to be from families who have connections with ISIS and, although many are living with their mothers, those who are unaccompanied are now with ‘temporary caregivers’[1]. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine how many children are trapped within these camps but information released by Save The Children suggests that there are ‘more than 2,500 children from 30 countries in three camps alone’[2]. In most cases these children are also being kept in separate areas to the rest of the camp population, a decision which is believed to be hindering their access to the aid and services that many of them are in desperate need of receiving[3].

Worsening this is the fact that the conditions within the camps, as reported by Human Rights Watch, are unhygienic and most have ‘inadequate food, shelter, healthcare, and education’ provisions[4]. As a result of this it is suspected that a number of children have been greatly traumatised.

What is being done?

Despite the fact that these children have not been charged with any crimes, many governments refuse to allow them back into their country as they claim that they may be ‘security threats’[5]. This matter is further affected by the fact that many mothers refuse to let their children return home without them, a repatriation which the governments are even more reluctant to allow[6]. It is for this reason that the UK and US recently ‘barred two mothers from returning’[7] after their pleas to be allowed to re-enter their respective homes. Consequently, a debate has been sparked with regards to what should be done in order to help the children who have been caught in the crossfire, whilst protecting national security interests. Although the answer to this question is undecided it is clear that these children are in need of our help and compassion because they are innocent victims. A member of Pink Floyd was recently reported to have helped to rescue two of these children, with the help of a human rights lawyer, but, as Letta Tayler argues, the onus is on the governments to help these children and it ‘shouldn’t have to take Pink Floyd to bring them home’[8].

Natasha Sieradzk

Human Rights Section Feature Writer

23 March 2019


[1] J. Dalton, ‘More than 2,500 foreign children living in camps in north-east Syria, say aid workers’ (The Independent, 20 February 2019) <> accessed 07 March 2019

[2] F. Drury, ‘Islamic State: Thousands of foreign children in Syrian Camps’ (BBC News, 21 February 2019) <> accessed 07 March 2019

[3] J. Dalton (n 1)

[4] L. Tayler, ‘It shouldn’t take Pink Floyd to rescue ISIS fighters’ abandoned children’ (Human Rights Watch, 31 January 2019) <> accessed 07 March 2019

[5] L. Tayler (n 4)

[6] L. Tayler (n 4)

[7] F. Drury (n 2)

[8] L. Tayler (n 4)

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes above.

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