Syria

Thousands of Syrian Refugees Return Home

640x392_55271_258192Thousands of Syrian refugees returned from neighboring Lebanon to their country on Saturday.
About 2,000 Syrian refugee families arrived in Syria’s Tartus province via the al-Dabousiyeh border crossing, FNA dispatches said.

Many Syrian refugees said that they felt the need to return home despite facing many problems in their country.

The conflict in Syria started in March 2011, when sporadic pro-reform protests turned into a massive insurgency following the intervention of western and regional states.

The unrest, which took in terrorist groups from across Europe, the Middle-East and North Africa, has transpired as one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history.

As the foreign-backed insurgency in Syria continues without an end in sight, the US government has boosted its political and military support to Takfiri extremists.

Washington has remained indifferent to warnings by Russia and other world powers about the consequences of arming militant groups.

International bodies have all voiced concern over the current situation of the Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries.

On Friday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) alarmed that child refugees who have fled the war in Syria are vulnerable to exploitation including early marriage, domestic violence and child labor, despite efforts to keep them in school.

More than one million children, some without parents or close relatives, are among 2.1 million refugees who have crossed mainly into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey since March 2011, UNICEF said.

Jordan hosts 540,000 Syrian refugees, straining health and education services and already scarce water resources, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Jordan Michele Servadei said.

Syria militants are also alleged to have infiltrated refugee camps in Jordan seeking to recruit young people to fight in their homeland, Servadei said.

Most Syrians live in host communities in the North, while 120,000 are at the teeming Zaatari camp in the Jordanian desert.

“In host communities they are much more exposed to child labor, to early marriage, to exploitation in general,” Servadei told a news briefing in Geneva.

Some 200,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan are school-age, but only 80,000 are enrolled in education, often in classrooms with double shifts.

Adolescents aged 14 to 17, many of whom had dropped out of school, were especially at risk, he said.

“The main coping mechanism that these children have in many cases is withdrawal…We noticed that actually many children don’t go out of the house,” he said.

“But the problem is that the house is not the safest place always. There is a high level of domestic violence among communities, definitely because of the war situation, but also because of the protracted displacement and the sense of frustration that it brings.”

Jordan lacks enough shelters for battered women, he added.

UNICEF operates 80 child-friendly spaces in Jordan, offering activities and psycho-social support to young Syrian refugees, some of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

An estimated 30,000 Syrian child refugees are working in Jordan, Servadei said. A UNICEF assessment in the Jordan Valley in April identified 3,500 child laborers, mainly seasonal.

“They were working mainly on the farms, in many cases also hard labor, let’s say 10 hours a day using pesticides,” he said. Other children work in family bakeries or as mechanics.

UNICEF is providing cash assistance – 30 Jordanian dinars or about $45 per month – for families to remove a Syrian child from work and return him to school, according to Servadei.

“We monitor the attendance, when the attendance is no longer there, the cash assistance gets stopped,” he said. “But we are checking if that is going to be enough because actually most of these children are earning much more working, unfortunately.”

In 2012, 18 percent of the registered marriages of Syrians in Jordan involved under-18-year-olds, up from 12 percent a year before, he said.

Meantime, a charities watchdog said last Monday Millions of pounds raised by British charities to help Syrian refugees are “undoubtedly” funneled to foreign-backed terrorist groups.

British charities’ regulator Charity Commission said the crisis in Syria means they cannot track the money they are donating for Syrian refugees.

“A lot of money is raised that goes to Syria, some of it undoubtedly goes to extremist groups,” chairman William Shawcross told The Daily Telegraph.

This comes as the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which is an umbrella group for the 14 biggest charities in Britain, including the British Red Cross, said while their “Syria Crisis Appeal” has raised more than £20 million, the destination of the money cannot be verified.

“It is perfectly feasible for charities to be established as a sort of cover. We have not seen clear evidence of that yet,” Charity Commission board member Peter Clarke also told the paper.

“It is one of these ‘fog of war’ issues where stuff can be diverted. You can think of a host of different ways in which people giving money with the best possible intentions could find that it has been misappropriated,” added Clarke, who is a former head of the Metropolitan police’s anti-terrorism.

Amid deep concerns about the destination of the money raised for refugees, the commission has recently issued guidelines to charities to ensure less money is directed toward terrorists.

Yet, the situation of the Syrian refugees is even worse than this. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled to neighboring Jordan from their home country in light of the ongoing war in Syria, but their distress has created a business for some. So-called ‘matchmakers’ sell Syrian refugee teenager girls to rich Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia on the basis of the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam which also supports Takfiri groups’ terrorist operations.

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