Turkey needs help now to get child workers into school
Syrian refugee children at a primary school in Sanliurfa
Turkey needs urgent help to stop the spread of child labour and get more Syrian refugee children into school, according to a fact-finding mission.
There are more than 800,000 school-age Syrian children in the country and they are often their family’s only source of income.
That means many of them are working in textile factories, agriculture, street vending and collecting scrap metal instead of getting an education.
The Council of Europe – a human rights body representing 47 countries – has been urged to work with the Turkish authorities to tackle the various problems preventing refugee children from going to school.
A report by Ambassador Tomáš Boček, the council chief’s special representative on migration and refugees, comes as world leaders have failed to keep their promise of providing $1.4 billion to get one million Syrian refugees into school for the 2016-17 academic year.
The children’s charity Theirworld revealed recently that there is still a massive funding gap that will leave thousands of children out of school in neighbouring countries, including Turkey.
Boček – who made a fact-finding trip to Turkey – agrees time is running out for those Syrian refugees not yet in school.
In his report, he said: “I fully share the concerns expressed by the Ministry of Education that, while it may not be too late, there is not much time left to ensure that the generation of refugee and migrant children currently in Turkey is not lost.”
He said lack of education could aggravate the trauma children have suffered having to flee from their homes. It also increases the risk of alienation and disaffection, which could lead some into criminality or extremism.
He added: “Resources are needed to build infrastructure and increase capacity; to develop incentives for school attendance, especially for girls; to recruit and train a sufficient number of teachers; and to provide material and financial support.”
A Syrian boy makes shoe parts at a workshop in Gaziantep
On child labour, Boček’s report said: “The employment of children under the age of 15 remains a considerable problem in Turkey. This is both a consequence of and a cause for children not attending school.”
He said Turkish authorities want to tackle the issue and are launching projects to give financial help to parents who send their children to school.
He added: “They have not been rolled out widely enough to create an incentive for most Syrian parents not to send their children to work.” He called for a nationwide scheme to be developed as a priority.
Boček also said he was “very concerned to hear of an increasing number of cases of early marriage of Syrian girls, primarily due to poverty or as a means to ‘secure the child’s honour’.”
He called for Turkey to provide safe and confidential ways for girls to seek help and for those having sex with underage children to be prosecuted.