[Main COI reference: Targeting, 12.1]
A report covering the period from September 2011 to the end of October 2019 stated that children, most frequently boys, have been used in hostilities by parties to the conflict for combat roles, to act as spies or informants, or to serve at checkpoints. Both State forces, including NDF and pro-government militias, and non-State armed groups are reported to recruit minors to their forces. During the reporting period January to December 2018, the UN verified that a total of 806 children were recruited, of which 670 were boys and 136 were girls.
Regarding SAA, one source indicated that they are not aware of child recruitment, but there has always been a problem with youths, particularly those close but not quite of eligible age for conscription. Government-affiliated armed groups are said to have had minors among their ranks, albeit ostensibly on a voluntary basis.
The non-State groups reported to recruit children include Ahrar al Sham, groups affiliated with the FSA, ISIL, Army of Islam, HTS, YPG, and Nur al-Din al-Zanki.
As long as ISIL held territory in Syria, it conducted child recruitment at a wider scale and in a different mode than other armed groups. ISIL claimed to have used 1 350 primary and secondary schools for recruitment purposes and subjected students to its ideological curriculum. ISIL was also conducting kidnappings, partly from orphanages, schools and family homes.
The prevalence of child recruitment was reportedly highest in opposition groups, particularly the SNA, with a source suggesting the explanation that they are often based on a more local level built on a framework that started as village militias. With the HTS and its affiliates, less child recruitment has been seen, although it has been visible in some other affiliated groups, such as TIP and other ethnic-specific Al Qaeda affiliates in northwest Syria, where fighting has become a communal activity.
See also the subsection ‘Child recruitment’ under 2.6. Persons fearing forced or child recruitment by Kurdish forces.
Child recruitment is of such severe nature that it would amount to persecution.
Not all children face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution in the form of child recruitment. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: poor socio-economic situation (for example, residing in IDP camps), social status, area of origin or residence, ethnicity, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
The individual circumstances of the applicant need to be taken into account to determine whether or not a nexus to a reason for persecution can be substantiated.
See other topics concerning children: