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Syria Report Reveals Refugee Children's Bleak Future

UNHCR report finds half of the 2.2 million Syrian refugees are children, many working to support family instead of being in school.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 11/29/2013, 8:19 AM

Illustration: child
Illustration: child
Flash 90

A new report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has detailed the disastrous cost being paid by former citizens of Syria due to the ongoing conflict. The report found more than half of the 2.2 million Syrian refugees are children, many of whom are working instead of being in school.

According to the report, as many as 300,000 children living in Lebanon and Jordan are not attending school, with the rate of absence from school being 80% among refugee children in Lebanon.

Instead, many are forced to work from as young as 7 years old due to the death of caregiving adults. Over 70,000 refugee families are without a father, and roughly 3,700 refugee children are living unaccompanied or without both parents, the study found.

The trend impacts local labor practices as well. Maysoon Al Remawi, an inspector at the Jordanian ministry of labor, told The Guardian that "60-70% of child labor in Jordan is made up of Syrians, according to our estimates,"  adding "Syrian children...are as much of a competition as adult Syrians."

Results were gathered from interviews with Syrian children and families between July and October. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the BBC "if we do not act quickly, a generation of innocents will become lasting casualties of an appalling war."

The UNHCR report comes after a British think-tank on Sunday released a study that found over 11,000 children have been killed in the Syrian war now stretching into its third year. Over 120,000 people overall have been killed in the fighting.

A date has been set for peace talks at Geneva for January 22 in attempts to bring the bloody conflict to an end. On Wednesday, President Bashar Assad's government announced it would attend the talks, even as it emphasized Assad would not "hand over power."

Many of the opposition forces, such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), have rejected talks, vowing to continue fighting until Assad is deposed.

UNHCR is the UN body tasked with supporting all refugees, except for "Palestinian refugees." The UN Reliefs and Works Agency (UNRWA) was charged with aiding the 700,000 Arabs that left Israel during the War for Independence in 1948. Under its policy of not resettling them, the number under its care is currently over 5 million.

US Congressmen recently have been pressing the State Department to investigate and justify massive US financial support to UNRWA which is accused of inciting and radicalizing "Palestinian refugees," and is currently in a financial crisis with a $36 million deficit.

No UN body was established to support the more than 1 million Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab countries since 1948.