VIEW FROM REFUGEE SETTLEMENTS REVEALS A GENERATION ADRIFT
Now in its sixth year, the Syrian refugee crisis has triggered heated arguments across the world, polarising the political debate in the Arab states, Europe and the US. One voice, however, has been conspicuous by its absence in this debate – that of the refugees themselves.
The annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey – the most important research of its type into this crucial demographic across the Middle East – has itself excluded young Syrian voices since 2011, due to the security situation.
This year, we are redressing that omission. With the plight of Syrians – and especially those forced to flee the fighting – dominating headlines in the region and globally, we felt it was important to hear those voices. For the first time, therefore, we conducted a supplementary poll alongside our Arab Youth Survey 2017, reaching out to young Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan.
The figures surrounding the refugee crisis are alarming. Six years of war have left hundreds of thousands dead. Half of the population – over 11 million people – have been displaced by the fighting, and of those, more than 5 million have been forced to flee their country altogether and seek refuge in other countries. Most find themselves in refugee camps and settlements in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. Despite what the headlines in Europe suggest, only one in ten has fled further afield, attempting to seek refuge and asylum in Europe.
If the sheer scale of the crisis is worrying, our findings from this Survey are sobering. More than half of the young Syrians we surveyed – all living in severe poverty, in cramped refugee settlements just miles from their homeland – say they don’t think they will ever permanently return to Syria.
More, for this return to happen, the complex politics and the wider strategic implications of the war and the crisis take a back seat to a far more basic need: an end to the fighting.
These findings are of significant value to policymakers and civil society in identifying new channels of engagement with the young refugees. While their loss of livelihoods is disturbing enough, their deeper sense of disappointment, as reflected in the findings, underlines the need for finding alternate and lasting solutions to restore their optimism.
For nine years now, the Arab Youth Survey has provided the world with an annual snapshot into the hopes and aspirations, and the fears and concerns, of Arab youth, providing policymakers and businesses with evidence-based insights into this demographic.
This year, our Survey revealed a growing divide between those young Arabs in the Gulf states who feel confident and optimistic about the future, and those elsewhere who feel windows to opportunity have been shuttered.
Our additional data on Syrian refugees adds depth to this theme, providing insights into those young Arabs whose future is even more insecure than most.
We are hopeful that the findings from A Voice for Young Syrian Refugees will inspire all stakeholders to identity more tangible solutions in addressing the challenges faced by young people.
If you haven’t already, after reading these insights, I invite you to study the full 2017 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, which can be found at www.arabyouthsurvey.com.