EU and UNICEF Help Kazakhstan Reintegrate Children Returned from Syria and Iraq

Photo: Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry

When the so-called Islamic State established a self-declared ‘caliphate’ in 2014, thousands of nationals of Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, travelled to Iraq and Syria to join IS ranks. Many moved with their families and subsequently, many children were born in IS controlled conflict zones between 2014-2019.

Kazakhstan has so far evacuated 526 of these children and with aid from the European Union (EU) funded programme “EU-UN Support to the States in Central Asia for their Citizens Returned from Conflict Zones, Primarily Syria, and Iraq,” offered comprehensive support for their adaptation to life back home.

The programme aims to assist returnee women, children, and families by encouraging their reintegration into local communities and ensuring they receive protection, access to social services, and education. During the first phase, Kazakhstan in collaboration with UNICEF, established a National Resource Center to train and equip specialists working with returned children and provide psychosocial services and professional guidance to returnees. “Our common goal is to ensure that all returnee children continue to receive the necessary support to recover from their experiences as well as the opportunity to learn, develop, and adapt to Kazakhstani culture and tradition,” said Laetitia Bazzi-Vale, acting UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kairat Umarov noted that whilst significant progress has been made in the gradual reintegration of returnees into society, “our children still need psychological and social support.”

The Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan reported that on February 23rd, representatives of the EU, UNICEF, and the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs met in Astana to discuss the implementation of the second phase of reintegrating further returnee children and their families. Initiatives discussed included a program of activities designed to assist local executive bodies and schools working in this sensitive field.

Kestutis Jankauskas, the EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan, stated: “We have been supporting an important programme to reintegrate returnee children in Kazakhstan for several years now. The cooperation of UNICEF, the European Union, and the Kazakhstani authorities aims to create conditions for the children’s successful social adaptation, and we are pleased to see positive results.”


Times of Central Asia