400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey not in school, says rights group
Migrants wait to travel by dinghies to the Greek islands from Turkish coast near Bodrum, Turkey on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. (AP / Emre Tazegul)
ANKARA, Turkey - More than 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not able to attend school despite a Turkish government move that allowed them access to the Turkish schooling system, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday.
The U.S.-based rights group cited a language barrier, integration issues and financial difficulties as reasons for the refugee children's poor access to education in Turkey.
It called on the international community to provide "urgent financial and technical support" for initiatives that would expand the children's access to an education.
The group said Turkey should provide language support, and better disseminate information to the refugees about school enrolment. It also urged the country to grant work permits to the refugees to prevent the high rate of child labour among refugee children.
"Failing to provide Syrian children with education puts an entire generation at risk," said Stephanie Gee, of the Human Rights Watch's refugee rights program. "With no real hope for a better future, desperate Syrian refugees may end up putting their lives on the line to return to Syria or take dangerous journeys to Europe."
Turkey is host to more than 2 million refugees from Syria. Human Rights Watch says 708,000 are school-age children.
Last year, Turkey allowed Syrian refugees to attend Turkish public schools but just over 212,000 were enrolled at primary and secondary level schools, the rights group said.
The group said that while 90 per cent of children of families living in refugee camps had enrolled in schools, most refugees live outside of camps where "only 25 per cent of school-age children were enrolled in school."
The group said ensuring that the children go to school will reduce the risk of early marriages or military recruitment.
"While the Turkish government has been generous in its response toward the Syrian refugee crisis, Turkey has struggled to ensure that Syrian schoolchildren have the access to education to which they are entitled under international law," Human Rights Watch said.