In and around the infamous camp that has housed many families of alleged extremist fighters since the defeat of ISIS in Syria and neighboring Iraq, “There are more than 22,000 foreign children of at least 60 nationalities languishing in camps and prisons, in addition to many children. Thousands of Syrian children.” UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Ted Chaiban.
According to the United Nations, a fire broke out on Saturday evening during a family gathering between the displaced Syrians residing in the camps. A woman, along with the three children, was reported to have died, and at least 11 adults were injured. At least 20 people remain in hospital overall, with six in critical condition.
Devastating news. I am deeply saddened by reports that at least three children have died in a fire in Al-Hol camp, Syria. My thoughts go to the affected families.
These dangerous camps have no place for children. It’s too late for a long-term solution. https://t.co/B4zv6XtK7J
Henrietta H. Four (unicefchief) February 28, 2021
There are no basic services
“Children in Al Hol not only face stigma, but they also face extremely difficult living conditions where basic services are scarce or unavailable in some cases,” said Mr. Shaiban.
“The detention of children is a measure of last resort and should be for the shortest time possible. Children should not be detained solely on suspicion of having family ties with armed groups or their family members’ membership in armed groups.”
Earlier this month, independent human rights experts at the United Nations Notice that An “unknown number” of foreign nationals were killed in the Al-Hol camp and Roj al-Misri in northeastern Syria, and they urged their countries of origin to return their citizens as soon as possible, rejecting allegations that it is extremely difficult to deal with non-state groups that control the local area.
Mr. Chaiban said that Member States should do everything in their power to reintegrate children into their communities and repatriate them “in a safe and dignified manner.”
We call on all member states to provide children – who are their own citizens or born to their own nationals – with civil documents to prevent statelessness. This is in line with the best interests of the child and conforms to international standards.
Aid officials in Syria denounce ‘dangerous conditions’
The United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran RisaAnd the Regional Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs for the Syrian Crisis a. Muhannad HadiThey expressed their regret at the deadly shooting in Al-Hol camp, in a statement also issued on Sunday.
They expressed their sincere sympathy to the affected families, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.
“They also affirm that this traumatic event confirms the fact that no one – most innocent children – should live under difficult and dangerous humanitarian conditions in Al Hol camp.”
Humanitarian partners working in Al-Hol camp have mobilized to provide urgent assistance, and the United Nations and humanitarian partners provide “a comprehensive package of humanitarian aid to the camp, including primary and emergency health care; water; shelter; non-food items and food and hygiene distributions; nutrition; and protection.” The statement said.
© UNICEF / Delil Souleiman
Fires are not uncommon
With nearly 62,000 residents, Al-Hol camp is the largest camp for internally displaced people in Syria. More than 80 percent of the population are women and children.
Senior UN officials said accidental fires are not uncommon in the camp, as families often resort to using cooking stoves inside their tents to keep warm, especially during the winter when temperatures regularly drop below freezing.
Mr. Rida and Mr. Hadi expressed their concern that unless measures are taken to address the residents’ long-term well-being, “more tragic incidents in Al-Hol camp are inevitable”.