Syrian Refugee Children Long For Home

Download Audio

More than nine million people have fled Syria since the civil war began there in 2011.

Many Syrians fled to Jordan where refugee camps have become their reluctant home.

At the Za'atari camp in Jordan — where there are about 90,000 people — more than half of the residents are children.

Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks to Raed Nimri, deputy country director for Mercy Corps in Jordan, about the difficulties facing the children growing up in the camp.

"The majority of the kids, if you ask them to draw something out of their head, you would go with most of them drawing home back in Syria," Nimri said. "And they draw it shiny, with sunlight, with flowers and stuff. So they always imagine a beautiful image of their home back in Syria."

Hasan Ahmad, a 13 year-old resident, has lived in the camp for three years.

When asked what the biggest difference is between his life in Syria and his life now, Hasan says he used to be happier.

Interview Highlights

On the conditions at the camp

"The conditions are not great, but comparing to what they were to when the camp opened, it's getting better.

"80 percent of them are living in prefabs, and around 20 percent of them are living in tents.

"If you look down the main street of the camp, it's packed with people. There are a lot of shops on each side of the road. All kinds of stuff. It's crowded. It's too much. But it's full of life here."

"The only way they can leave the camp is they have a Jordanian family to bail them out. Bail them out means that the Jordanian family needs to take responsibility, that this family is coming under their risk and under their name. So one way of leaving the camp is to be bailed out, to live in the Jordanian city. The other way is if you apply to go back to Syria."

On what it is like to be a kid

"The new kids who come, they come traumatized and they come with a lot of stress."

"A lot of them are going to school — there are schools inside the camps and schools outside the camps that Syrians can go to for free. However a good portion of kids prefer to work and make some money rather than going and spending time in school."

"Especially when they are in the teenager stage, they tend to be more harsh ... more able to cope with different living conditions. Their dreams are different. Their hopes are different. Talking to kids here in the camp, asking them, 'What are looking for, what's your hope?' and most of them go, 'We wish and we dream about going back to Syria.'"


  • Raed Nimri, deputy country director for Mercy Corps in Jordan.
  • Hasan Ahmad, a 13 year-old resident of Za'atari.

This segment aired on January 13, 2015.



More from Here & Now

Listen Live