The UN is soon set to announce the devastating milestone of 4 million registered refugees who have fled from Syria into neighboring countries. This makes this the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The conflict now entering its fifth year, has shattered Syria’s economy where an estimated 57 per cent of people are unemployed; one of highest rates in the world.
This war has been devastating for everyone in Syria; families have fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back and it is mainly women who have fled the borders. 4 out of every 5 refugee households are headed by a woman; often men stay behind in Syria to look after the family home, business or elderly relatives.
For young people from Syria, the conflict has taken a double blow. Syrian refugee youth are excluded from almost all walks of life. They are severely limited in accessing higher education and are not even allowed to work if they have the qualifications. Scores of highly educated and enthusiastic young Syrians, who, like any other young people in the world, want to start their life; get a good job or maybe even start a family, have had their dreams shattered.
Mohammed (not his real name), a Syrian Business Admiration graduate told me, “I do nothing all day. I wake up at 1 or 2pm most days. I have no money so there’s not much I can do. “
Mohammed is now living on his own in the Jordanian capital, Amman. If he had stayed in Syria, he felt he would be forced to join in the fighting.
He continued, “I had plans to work for a big company in Aleppo, but just as I got my job, the war broke out. My family is back in Syria and they have been supporting me financially, but now things are getting harder, they cannot afford for me to stay….. I am now looking at options to go to Europe by boat.”
Mohammed is not the only young Syrian to consider the perilous journey to Europe. Thousands of young men and women have been taking this life threatening journey daily and in some cases, joining the ranks of radicalized groups in desperation for a better life. It is unacceptable that these are the only choices young people feel they have.
ActionAid are entering a new phase of our ‘Youth in Conflict’ programme. We will be opening community centers in Jordan and Lebanon, where we will work with young people in urban areas to design our programme and project activities. We believe that by including young people in the planning, implementation and decision making processes will not just benefit the young people; the entire community will benefit from our centers and will be connected by the young people who live around them, reaching those who may not have previously accessed outside activities or services.
Whilst our interventions may help young Syrians to be active citizens right now, this can only ever be a temporary. With the lack of political will by the international community to broker a peace agreement, the conflict is only set to deepen and hundreds of thousands of young Syrians are set to be left without a future deprived of meaningful work experience and high level education. Many predict this conflict could continue for years and at the current rate, there will be no experienced doctors, lawyers or teachers to return to Syria. If urgent political intervention is not taken soon, Syria will indeed have a ‘lost generation.’