Born in Syria is a 2017 documentary film that traces the lives of seven refugee children as they try to make their way to Europe and subsequently, struggle to integrate into the new environment. A key aspect that the film highlights is the struggle of refugee children to attain quality education in European countries, which are ethnically, culturally, and linguistically different from the Middle East.
Hamude, an 8-year-old child, having immigrated to Germany with his uncle, is shown to have no German friends at his school because learning the language for him is a strenuous task and he is only able to pick up a few words. This language gap, therefore, acts as a barrier for Syrian refugee children to access to Germany’s free education system. Similarly, Marwan, a 13-year-old child, living in Belgium finds it hard to pick up on the French language as he says, “There are letters that you pronounce, but don’t write, or write but don’t pronounce”. This is a significant change from the Arabic language that Marwan has grown up writing and conversing in, and for him to adjust to the new script and pronunciations within the span of a few weeks in order to assimilate into the new environment after having gone through the traumatic journey from Syria to Belgium shows the psychological pressure upon refugee children.
The documentary also covers the journey of a 13-year-old girl named Jihan, who lived in Lebanon for four years after leaving Syria and before going to Europe. Jihan recalls how she was bullied at her Lebanese school solely because of her identity as a Syrian child. This ultimately led her to lash out on her peers, which got her expelled and she thus, was not able to continue her education. Jihan’s story is an example of the dire need for psychological support for refugee children in host country schools to help them deal with the trauma and emotions that the war and its after-math leave them with.
The documentary brings to light the urgent need for psychological and language support for refugee children in foreign countries. If their goal is to house these refugees permanently, these host countries must first consider adequate provision of counselling services to aid students primarily in their mental health. Having persisted for over a decade, it is pertinent that the international community takes serious decisions on the handling of the Syrian refugee crisis and the education of children affected by this conflict.