Uncertain Futures: the impact of displacement on Syrian refugee and Iraqi internally displaced youth in Iraq
As the conflict in Syria edges towards its sixth year, and the conflict in Iraq continues, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian youths have been forced to flee from their homes and are living in camps or in host communities in Iraq.
Our report reveals that the experience of conflict and displacement has had a devastating impact on these youths. Through discussions with 138 13 – 24-year-old Syrian refugee and Iraqi internally displaced youths living in Iraq, complemented by interviews with their parents, members of non-government organisations (NGOs), United Nations (UN) agencies and the Government of Iraq (GoI) and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), we reveal that:
· Feelings of hopelessness and persistent discrimination were pervasive among the group, including discrimination experienced at the hands of NGO workers and regional governments.
· Extended disruption to education, heightened concerns about violence and abuse, and a lack of job opportunities are among the biggest challenges that youths are facing.
· The majority of youths said they saw no future as internally displaced persons or refugees in Iraq, and many Syrians felt that if there was a future for them it was in Europe, including through facilitation by people smugglers.
· Some male youths are attracted to the possibility of joining armed groups, not for ideological reasons, but rather in order to receive a salary and provide for their family.
The dangers of ignoring this displaced youth population in Iraq are stark. With poor access to safe and quality support and services, many of these youths face a variety of hardships such as isolation, insecurity, psychological distress, extended disruption of education, heighted protection risks, exploitative working conditions, desperation and hopelessness.
Save the Children, believes that this group of refugee and internally displaced youths are some of the most vulnerable people affected by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Focusing on meeting their needs will have a profound impact on the situation in the region now and in the future.
We welcome the funding that the Australian Government has provided for the Iraq response, including the recent announcement of an additional $5 million, however we urge the Government to work with humanitarian agencies, the UN, other donors, and the GoI and the KRG to ensure that the specific needs of youths are being met.
As the UN Secretary-General says, engaging youth is essential to lasting stability. These youths will be the key to building back broken economies and creating lasting peace, but only if they are given the skills, knowledge and opportunity to do so. With the right investments, Iraq can harness and benefit from the energy, enthusiasm and creativity of the youth in its country.
For more information on the situation in Iraq and Syria please contact the report’s author: Sarah Ireland, Save the Children’s Humanitarian Advocacy and Policy Advisor on firstname.lastname@example.org.