The impact of “rejected” asylum environments on Syrian children
Grape Ballads – Loujain Murad
In countries that describe them as “displaced” and “guests”, thousands of Syrian children live in a state of instability, and the constant fear that they will be victims of racist attitudes strengthens their sense of not belonging to the host country, and further complicates their integration.
While Syrian children in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey face numerous problems, pressures on them have increased as a result of their families’ fear of refugee repatriation plans that have destroyed any attempts at stability.
Such circumstances result in numerous problems, primarily the denial of children’s right to education, with psychological and social effects on children’s present and future.
In this report, Enab Baladi discusses with experts and experts the impact of the lack of adequate conditions for the integration of Syrian children in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey on children and presents their proposed solutions that limit its consequences.
“You are only guests, you must not make mistakes,” is a phrase Tasneem Yunus, 17, and her classmates heard time and time again from the principal of their school in Istanbul.
Although she has lived in Turkey for about seven years and speaks Turkish fluently, this did not prevent her from being exposed to numerous racist attitudes at school, as Enab Baladi said.
Tasneem added, “I studied in Turkish schools for a long time, but I am always forced to face situations that make me feel insecure.”
Although Tasneem has many Turkish friends, any problem between Syrians and Turks is reflected in the way her colleagues and teachers deal with her.
For example, Tasneem is confronted daily by the teacher who leads her class, who repeats the sentence: “I don’t like Syrians and I don’t have to like them, and they are responsible for making me a racist person,” according to what Tasneem said.
“Even if we encounter a problem, we avoid going to the administration, because we are afraid that they will hold us accountable and that we will be punished for a mistake we did not commit,” Tasneem continued, noting that some of her colleagues were expelled from school and punished because of the problem. between them and the Turkish students, while the Turks were not punished.
The situation is not different in Lebanon either, because the child Abdul Hakim Al-Qaq (11 years old), living in Mount Lebanon Governorate, studies in a Lebanese school, but in the evening shift, which is why his contact with Lebanese children is limited, and he is limited to hours of play with the neighbor’s children.
A neighbor stopped his children from playing with Abdul Hakim, saying, “Don’t play with the Syrians, play for yourselves, you Lebanese,” according to what the child’s father, Adib al-Qaq, 53, told Enab Baladi.
Adeeb added: “My son, being young, could not deal with the situation and was content to return home sad.”
Activists also circulated on social media a video of a Jordanian father talking about the situation between his daughter and two Syrian children, while one of the two children said: “It’s their country, not ours,” asking his brother to leave the swing so that the Jordanian girl could could play.
The father criticized the situation in which Syrian children live in Jordan, apologizing for the racist attitudes they are exposed to.
Education strengthens fears
In the light of the escalation of discussions about plans for the return of refugees, and the beginning of their implementation in Lebanon and Turkey, the daily life of Syrian refugees has turned into a constant fear that they will be the next target of those plans.
This hadith is not lost on the ears of children in schools, in public places, on social networks, and even in their homes.
Adeeb Al-Qaq, who lives in Lebanon, said he is forced to remind his children that they are guests in this country, and warns them not to get involved in any problem that could lead to their deportation.
Adeeb added: “Even if a small problem happened in the neighborhood, my children were forced to return home, for fear of being held responsible and victimized by a problem that has nothing to do with them.”
“We did not enter, we are guests in this country”, a sentence that Adeeb keeps repeating to his children, but these warnings are not enough to save him from the state of anxiety in which he lives while his children are away from home, he tells him.
In Turkey, many Syrian children are exposed to racism in schools, which in some cases has led to physical abuse.
Although the child is a victim of racist attitudes, parents avoid filing a lawsuit as useless because the other child is Turkish or out of fear that the problem will get worse, according to Enab Baladi.
This has encouraged many parents to give up sending their children to school, for fear of harm from which they would not be able to protect them.
An environment that makes it difficult for children to integrate
Syrian children face numerous expressions and attitudes that show that their presence is not accepted by the environment in the countries of asylum, which makes their integration difficult and creates great fears for them.
Social worker and family therapist Asmaa al-Jrad told Enab Baladi that children who grow up in societies that reject them or limit their abilities and ideas, and prevent their right to express themselves, practice activities and get the right to education, medical care and others, develop a sense of dispersion, loss and loss of identity that prevents them from moving and working. Or they feel inferior and inferior.
Whether this situation is related to the existence of direct legality, situations that reinforced this feeling or parents’ fears, children feel constant fear and loss of psychological security, and in addition they lose connections and connections between themselves and others, which is what creates anxiety and extreme tension in the child, and the tendency to isolate and withdraw. , frustration and inability to make friends or achieve personal success, according to Asmaa Al-Jrad.
The socio-pedagogical expert added that in some of them this feeling turns into aggression, a desire for revenge, and a tendency to sabotage and cause damage, as an expression of protest and non-acceptance of this discrimination and racial segregation, and the desire to break laws.
For his part, the psychiatrist, Dr. Ismail Al-Zalaq, told Enab Baladi that the need to belong is crucial for children, and it starts with belonging to the family, then to the society, and to the school as a community institution.
The child’s feeling that there is a barrier between him and society results in an inferior view of himself, because the child feels that he is less than others, and this increases his exposure to bullying and racist expressions, according to Al-Zalaq, emphasizing that this condition limits the child’s opportunities and makes him incapable to create social relationships.
In some cases, it can also turn into physical problems if the racial issues he is facing have been significant, according to the doctor.
Al-Zalaq added that a child may become alienated from their basic identity and avoid speaking their native language, and may also ask their family to avoid speaking their language in public for fear of their identity being known.
Syrian child in the future
The future of children differs depending on their reality, since they can identify with the personality of the host country, embodying its culture, ideas, language and way of life and behavior, separating themselves from their history, culture and civilization, and perhaps also from their religion, principles and values too, according to what social and educational expert Asmaa Al-Jrad said.
In some cases, a person may live his whole life in confusion, unable to return to his country and unable to progress and develop in countries of asylum.
In the third case, he can adapt and preserve his identity to the extent that allows him to integrate into the new society, and be able to preserve his past and invest in his present and future in the new country, according to the expert.
Asma al-Jrad said that in the presence of countries that can give passports to Syrian children, most of the children will try to come to those countries, so that their roots will gradually be separated from their country.
Faced with the impotence of the people.. What are the solutions?
Most Syrian refugees live in constant anxiety, and parents face great fears that their children will be hurt due to their inability to change reality.
Psychiatrist Ismail Al-Zalaq said that parents need to establish a safe, balanced and supportive relationship with the child, so that he can talk about his fears and share them with his parents.
Parents should also avoid increasing the child’s burden and intensifying his fears of society, rather than blaming him for this fear, accepting these feelings and helping him absorb the environment that surrounds him.
This is achieved by reminding the child that there are good people in the environment with whom he can establish good relationships, but also others who will not accept his presence, according to the doctor.
Al-Zalaq also recommended parents to strengthen the child’s sense of belonging to his country, and his sense of being able to succeed by highlighting cases of children from his country who have succeeded in asylum countries.
On the other hand, social and educational expert Asmaa Al-Jrad recommended raising awareness and continuous training on new patterns while preserving the original identity of children and their families who live through similar experiences.
She emphasized the importance of establishing associations, centers and programs dealing with this bi- or tri-cultural category.