In October last year, Turkey invaded the border with Syria. About five hundred people died in this violence. The violence has also caused a significant increase in Syrian refugees in Iraqi camps. Annemieke Ruggenberg from Save the Children visited one of these locations. "The people live in the camp and actually have no prospect of a better future."
The Turkish army invaded northeastern Syria to fight the Kurdish militia that controlled that border area. Turkey sees these Syrian-Kurdish militias as terrorists and an extension of the Kurdish PKK. Turkey and the PKK have been in conflict for three decades.
In addition, the Turkish government wanted to repatriate the estimated 3.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Syrian territory. In the violence that ultimately followed, about five hundred people died. This mainly concerned fatalities of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition led by the Kurdish YPG militia.
More than 19,000 people have fled from Syria to Iraq since October
The violence in Northeast Syria is still causing an increase in Syrian refugees in northern Iraq. According to recent UNHCR figures, more than 19,000 refugees have crossed the Iraqi-Syrian border since October 14, 2019. About three hundred people are added every week.
Ruggenberg, who is active in Iraq for human rights organization Save The Children, says there are two refugee camps: Bardarasch and Gawilan. Bardarasch is the largest camp and houses more than 17,000 people. Both camps are already full according to Ruggenberg.
"Lack of future prospects is the greatest concern of parents"
Despite the refugee people trying to resume life in the camps as good and evil as it is going, Ruggenberg has seen with his own eyes how dire the situation is. "Especially the lack of future prospects is very poignant. The people live in the camp and actually have no prospect of a better future. It is not clear where all the people from the camps should ultimately go."
According to Ruggenberg, the lack of perspective is also what parents are most concerned about when it comes to their children. "Most of the parents who arrived in the camps immediately started talking about their children's school. They want nothing more than to get their children educated, just like at home."
Another major problem in the Middle East, according to Ruggenberg, is the lack of specialized child psychologists. "Children often have trauma from their flight. And because there are few specialist child psychologists in Iraq who also know the cultural context, it is harder for them to process their trauma."
Despite the fact that the security situation in Syria is by no means good, it is noticeable that Ruggenberg nowadays also sees Syrian refugees returning home more often. "If some people feel that it is even somewhat safe, they return. They prefer an unsafe situation in Syria over a life in the refugee camp with no future prospects."