13 Years of the Syrian Crisis: Paving a Future in Japan for Youths Who Have Been Away from Their Homeland

13 years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, and there’s increased news about the reconstruction of the Tohoku region. The Syrian crisis also began in March 2011, and 13 years later, the situation remains unresolved, forcing many to live away from their homeland. According to the UNHCR’s Global Trends Report 2022 released in June 2023, Syria is the top country of origin for refugees, with 6.5 million people displaced. This time, we introduce interviews with Syrian students welcomed by Pathways Japan.

Alongside the stories of Syrian students studying in Japan, we want to share the background of their thoughts. The Syrian crisis, now in its 13th year, severely affects young people. Many had to leave their hometowns during a critical period of their lives. These youths, once aspiring for higher education and career advancement in their home country’s universities, suddenly lost their foundation. The conflict tore them from their homeland and deprived them of continuing their education. Universities and schools, once centers of learning and hope, have become distant memories, and these students have crossed borders in search of safety. As the Syrian crisis continues for over a decade, many youths left their country in childhood and spent their significant adolescent years in unstable situations, lacking legal status and educational opportunities. Losing access to education is a serious consequence of the conflict, creating a generation of young Syrians who have deferred their dreams and hope. Pathways Japan’s initiative to welcome Syrian students to Japan offers them not only a refuge but also a chance to reclaim lost opportunities. Syrian students living in Japan talk about continuing their education, recovering lost dreams, and pursuing a future that once seemed out of reach.

Student Interviews

Efforts for Syrian Students by Pathways Japan

Pathways Japan began its project by accepting students from Syria in 2017. The initiative started when a Japanese language school, having seen the circumstance of Syrian refugees crossing the Mediterranean to flee to Europe, wondered if they could help by accepting refugees. Seven years have passed, and the program that began with two language schools has expanded to include six language schools in Miyagi, Chiba, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Okinawa, as well as two universities, bringing the total number of young Syrians welcomed to 37. Of the 29 who have graduated from language schools or universities, 10 have found employment in Japan, and 15 have continued their education in graduate schools, universities, and vocational schools, achieving independent lives in Japan.

This fiscal year, 266 applications were received from Syria, and among them, six young people who passed the selection process will arrive in Japan this March. From this fiscal year, in addition to language schools, university admissions have also begun, expanding the options for Syrian students’ acceptance and further studies in Japan.

Furthermore, seven years after the start of the admissions, a community of students from Syria is forming. Senior students provide new students with orientation on living in Japan and advice on future paths, fostering a spirit of mutual assistance. Utilizing such social networks, Pathways Japan will continue to support students welcomed to Japan to establish stable lives, deepen their study of the Japanese language and their fields of specialization, and achieve their career aspirations.

Among the Syrian students, some see parallels between the situation in their homeland and the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred in the same month as their country’s crisis. They empathize with the sorrow of those who lost much in the disaster and aspire to contribute to the reconstruction of their homeland one day, drawing motivation from their lives in Japan.

At Pathways Japan, while contemplating the long 13 years people have had to spend away from their homeland, we are committed to supporting young Syrians in Japan to reclaim the dreams and hopes they once lost and carve out a future for themselves.