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Brief from Brussels: Saving Syria's lost generation

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Brief from Brussels: Saving Syria's lost generation

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More than two million Syrian children don’t go to school and they’re among refugees in countries such as Turkey. We’re looking at the risk of a lost generation in the endless conflict, in this edition of the Brief from Brussels.

Turkey has the largest refugee population, almost four million people, most from Syria. Of the 1.7 million refugee children, 40 percent of school age are not enrolled – putting them at risk of labour abuse, marriage and distress.

Abdul-Kadir and Zaynab Alrifai live in a district of Istanbul. They arrived from Homs four years ago. Their children go to a temporary education centre, taught by Syrian teachers – but they also learn Turkish.

“Life has taught us that we can overcome difficulties with knowledge. That’s why we must educate our children; so that we have a generation capable of building a country properly. That will be possible only thanks to knowledge,” said said Abdul-Kadir Alrifai.

There are more than 300,000 children on a project which pays their parents between six and 11 euros per child, per month. It was originally conceived to help Turkish children, but extended to refugees thanks to donors including the EU. It’s run in partnership with UNICEF and the Turkish Red Crescent. But money is running short.

Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF representative for Turkey, commented: “We need these efforts to continue so that we can keep protecting these children; so that we can keep giving them access to education that will allow them to have a better future and to be equipped with essential skills.”

Education in the classroom is the focus. But there’s also a child protection element, with social workers visiting families to assess any risks and to bring in other support if needed.

Despite concerns about the rule of law in Turkey, and military operations in Syrian Kurdish areas, the EU ambassador to Turkey says they will keep the 2016 deal to stop the migration flow – with more funding coming from Europe, and a new resettlement scheme.

“We are now in the phase that we are looking (to give) another three billion euros, in total it will be six billion euros. There is something that is coming up and it is really new, a voluntary resettlement scheme. We are in the process of finalising the whole structure for that,” explained Christian Berger.

After seven years of war and with no political solution in sight, the Turkish government says it will be more focusing more efforts on integration. It says it plans to gradually move temporary school centres for Syrians into the national education system.