UNICEF meets child survivors of the attack on northeast Syria prison
Statement by Bo Viktor Nylund, UNICEF Syria Representative
DAMASCUS, 6 February 2022 – “Yesterday, UNICEF met with some of the children still detained in the Ghwayran detention centre, in al-Hasakah, northeast Syria. For at least ten days, children who have lived in dire conditions in Ghwayran detention centre, many of them for years, witnessed and survived heightened violence in and around the prison further to the attack in mid-January.
“Despite some of the basic services now in place, the situation of these children is incredibly precarious.
“Children should never have been there in the first place. UNICEF is currently working to immediately provide safety and care for children while we continue to call on all stakeholders to urgently find long-term solutions in the best interests of the children.
“UNICEF acknowledges effort by the local authorities to stabilize the situation in and outside the prison. The work done to assess the condition of the children and support their care and protection has been invaluable and it needs to continue.
“Destruction in the surrounding area is also significant. Homes have been destroyed, affecting an estimated 30,000 people. It is urgent to support every effort, including by the Government of Syria and local authorities, to provide immediate assistance to affected populations.
“UNICEF confirms it is ready to help support a new safe place in the northeast of Syria to take care of the most vulnerable children - some as young as 12 years old.
“Children should never be in detention due to association with armed groups. Children associated with and recruited by armed groups should always be treated as victims of conflict.
“UNICEF continues to call for the immediate release of children in the Ghwayran prison and all detention centres across the northeast of Syria, and for them to be handed over to child protection actors. We call on member states of foreign children to repatriate these children urgently, consistent with their best interests.
“UNICEF stands ready to facilitate the speedy and systematic repatriation of foreign children and the reintegration of children in Syria to their communities of origin.
“The time to act is now. For the tens of thousands of children stranded in northeast Syria, every day counts. The current pace of repatriation and reintegration of children stranded in northeast Syria is far too slow. This is unacceptable.”