Nearly 850 children at immediate risk as violence continues in northeast Syria
Statement by Bo Viktor Nylund, UNICEF Syria Representative
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DAMASCUS, 23 January 2022 – “Intensifying violence in the city of Al Hasakah, related to the “Ghwayran” prison break attempt last Thursday, has put at serious risk the safety of nearly 850 children who are in detention. Some are as young as 12 years old. According to reports, more than 100 people were killed, and thousands were displaced in the ongoing violence.
“As fighting continues, the risk for children increases including to be harmed or forcibly recruited. Violence might also spread to other prisons, inside the camps and local communities.
“Children in the Ghwayran prison are children and have the right to access restorative justice procedures. We call for the release of children from prison. Detention of children should only be a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible.
“In the northeast of Syria, nearly 10,000 children and their mothers are in detention centres or the Al-Hol and Roj camps. They come from more than 60 countries and are struggling to survive amid increasingly dire conditions and the harsh winter. All of them are critically vulnerable and in urgent need of protection. Children don’t have basic services including warm clothes, hygiene, health, education and food.
“UNICEF calls on all parties in the northeast and elsewhere in Syria to keep children out of harm’s way and protect them at all times. We call once again on all member states involved to take urgent action and responsibility in the best interests of children and bring them and their mothers back to their country of origin.
“UNICEF continues to facilitate engagement with local authorities, support the logistics of the repatriation, prepare children and their mothers to return home to their countries of origin, and help some of the children to reintegrate.
“The clock is ticking for the children in the northeast of Syria. Every day counts and more collective action is needed now.”