More than half of young Syrian refugees say they are unlikely to return home permanently, and an end to the war and the elimination of Daesh are viewed as the decisive steps needed for them to consider going back.
Those are the key findings from ‘A Voice for Young Syrian Refugees’, a supplementary survey carried out alongside the 9th annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2017 and focused on the hopes, concerns and aspirations of young Syrian refugees living as refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.
For the survey, the international polling company PSB Research conducted 400 face-to-face interviews of young Syrian refugees aged 18-24 years, split equally between men and women, who are living in refugee settlements in Jordan and Lebanon.
Roy Haddad, Director, WPP MENA said, “For nine years, the Arab Youth Survey has been an important barometer of youth attitude throughout the Middle East and North Africa region. By reaching out to young refugees living in camps through this special survey, we are presenting an even more inclusive and comprehensive representation of Arab youth today.”
Not Homeward Bound Yet
Asked how likely they are to permanently return to Syria in the future, 54 per cent said unlikely, 42 per cent said likely and four per cent said they did not know. Given a list of steps that need to be taken before they could return home, 47 per cent chose ‘the war ends’ option as the most important, while 25 per cent said ‘Daesh leaving Syria’. Trailing far behind were ‘the economic situation improves’, chosen by eight per cent of the respondents, and ‘Bashar Al-Assad leaves’, chosen by seven percent.
The World Bank says the six-year old civil war has so far cost the nation’s economy USD 226 billion. More than 320,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the conflict and, according to the United Nations, more than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced and just over 5 million are registered as refugees outside of Syria, mostly in camps and settlements in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Most young refugees do not consider Bashar Al-Assad leaving office as a prerequisite for reaching a peace agreement. Just over a quarter (27 percent) agreed with the statement, ‘There can be no peace agreement as long as Bashar Al-Assad stays in office’, versus 71 per cent who said ‘ending the fighting is more important than Bashar Al-Assad leaving office’, with two per cent saying they did not know.
“The 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 of the survey, underlines the need for finding alternate and lasting solutions to restore their optimism. We are hopeful that these findings will inspire all stakeholders to identity more tangible solutions in addressing the challenges these young people face,” added Sunil John, Founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller.
Among young Syrians who believe they will be migrating to another country, the survey found 27 per cent said Canada was their top pick; 23 per cent said the US; the United Arab Emirates and Germany each were chosen by 22 percent; France was the choice for 14 per cent and the UK was chosen by 13 percent.
In another finding relating to migration, asked about what can be done to improve their plight, the majority of refugees (56 percent) – and particularly men (67 percent) – said that EU governments could help most by permitting more refugees to enter the EU, while 42 per cent said providing financial help to their host countries of Jordan and Lebanon would help more, a response made by 52 per cent of women compared with 32 per cent of men.
Young Syrian refugees are divided on whether Russia’s impact on the conflict is positive or negative, with 49 per cent saying positive and 46 per cent saying negative. The majority (66 per cent) of young Syrian refugees surveyed said they do not believe Donald Trump’s US presidency will change the course of the conflict, with one in four (23 per cent) expecting it to get worse.
One question compared the views of young Syrian refugees with their peers in the wider Middle East, as gauged by the 9th annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2017. Asked whether Daesh had become stronger or weaker over the past year, 77 per cent of young Syrian refugees said the terrorist group had become weaker – a significantly higher percentage than their peers in the Middle East as a whole, where 61 per cent of youth said Daesh was getting weaker.