MEPs demand urgent help for children detained in Syrian camps 

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Statement by Maria Arena, Chair of Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, following Friday’s virtual event on the “Children of al-Hol; why the protection of children's rights matters.”

“Today, for the first time, the European Parliament under the initiative of its Subcommittee on Human Rights, and in association with the Civil Liberties Committee, organised an event on the situation in Syria ahead of the EU-UN Brussels conference on Syria next Tuesday.

The main purpose of today’s meeting was to address the situation of thousands of Syrian and foreign children currently detained in camps such as Al-Hol in North East Syria and beyond. These children are in urgent need of protection - even more so now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to adopt a children’s rights perspective and seek sustainable solutions for the future: in Syria, in the region and in the EU. This is in line with the Parliament’s own resolution on children's rights on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted on 20 November last year.

A child is a child and must be protected regardless of where he or she lives and who the parents are. No double standards should be applied to those children that have already suffered major traumas and violence and are detained in North East Syria in dire conditions, deprived of both health services and education.

Today, Members paid tribute to the international staff deployed on the ground. We have called for unimpeded humanitarian access to the camps in Syria and in other countries hosting refugees.

These vulnerable children are in a legal limbo. First of all, they must be screened to have their legal status determined. Second, they must be repatriated. Good examples on how this could be done can be found in Central Asian and European countries and practices can be shared. In order to take steps forward, we need coordinated collective action at EU and international level. After almost ten years, no more excuses for further inaction are possible.

EU member states have an obligation to repatriate European children and provide means and measures to ensure their mental health rehabilitation and reintegration. Separating them from their mothers cannot be an option and it is not in line with the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most ratified international treaty in the world.

Good examples of successful reintegration exist. This is the best investment when it comes to the future of these children, as well as for their families and the security of our European societies.”

You can watch Friday’s virtual event again here.