GENEVA (March 17, 2016) — Children spoken to by World Vision at the Serbian-Macedonian border say their greatest fear is being sent back to the war and fighting they have fled.
The aid agency conducted an informal survey of children aged 6-17 years-old earlier this month. Their answers were both heartbreaking and strangely reassuring says Deirdre de Burca, World Vision’s Director of Advocacy in Brussels.
“Some of the answers the children gave us were devastating in their simplicity,” says de Burca. “But many of them maintain the innocence and hope that children all over the world share. For example, seven-year-old Lais told us he dreams of becoming a footballer and isn’t scared of anything. But 11-year-old Gais admitted he is frightened of death. No child should have to live with that sort of fear.”
In addition to being sent back to their war-torn homes, young refugees were also afraid of the military and police, armed thieves and bombs.
“The majority of children told us they fear fighting and war the most, and alongside that is a genuine fear of being sent back to countries where this is a reality for them. It is a painful reminder to us this is a war that affects children, and we need to do more to secure their futures and allow them the chance to be children,” says de Burca.
“I dream of becoming a painter,” eight-year-old Katrnada from Syria told World Vision.
“I want to go to a country with no problems,” said 12 year-old Roz.
Sarab, 15, wanted to be a doctor, but now only dreams of “leaving Serbia and going to Germany.”
Sandi, 13, says she’s most afraid of being sent back to Iraq. “We have nothing there, our house is destroyed.”
Rafal, 15, fears never seeing her parents again or being able to return to school.
Following Slovenia’s border closure, Serbia reacted by imposing restrictions of its own. Since March 9, there has been no refugee or migrant movement in or out of the country. In addition, Austria has imposed a daily limit on its border crossing.
“It’s a worrying trend. We have a responsibility to protect children, no matter where they live or where they have come from. Instead, some countries are essentially requiring these children walk back into war-zones,” says de Burca. “No child should fear violence and death. No child should be denied help when he or she seeks it.”
In a report released last week, The Cost of Conflict for Children, World Vision recommends protection mechanisms should be put in place along the migration route for unaccompanied minors vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The report also calls upon refugee host countries to scale-up resettlement and alternative humanitarian admissions programs in order to protect those who flee violence.
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Notes to editors:
- World Vision spoke to more than 20 children on the Serbian border on March 4. Quotes, pictures and further resources are available.
- World Vision has been responding to the crisis for the past five years. It is assisting refugees in northern Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Serbia.
About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/media-center/ or on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.
- Aid agency conducted an informal survey of children aged 6-17 years-old earlier this month.
- Balkan countries imposing additional border closures for refugees, migrants
- Children spoke of dreams of future occupations, fears of being forced to return to war zones