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A woman and her children stand scared outside their home following a reported Syrian government forces airstrike in Aleppo on Feb. 4. / Fadi AL-Halabi, AFP/Getty Images

BERLIN - Refugee aid groups said Wednesday they hope a United Nations report detailing the "unspeakable" suffering of children caught in the civil war will spur the West to do more to provide safe harbor for the young who have escaped.

"Every refugee knows suffering -and more than 50% are children - but when they try to get out (of Syria), they face closed doors or a very dangerous journey," said Karl Kopp, responsible for European affairs at Pro Asyl, an organization who helps Syrian refugees who reach Germany.

"Many children have died on the way to Europe. The report shows the reality of victims of these abuses such as torture but the truth is, if they cross the border into Europe, they don't find legal protection or safety," he added.

From March 1, 2011, to Nov. 15, 2013, "countless" numbers of children in Syria have died as a result of the ongoing conflict, while others have been subject to abuse ranging from sexual violence, maiming and torture, according to the U.N. report.

The report did not take sides in the conflict, blaming both Syrian regime forces and opposition groups for committing such atrocities. But it highlighted the government's disproportionate and indiscriminate use of weaponry and military tactics, which have killed tens of thousands of civilians.

"Government forces have also been responsible for the arrest, arbitrary detention, ill treatment and torture of children," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

"Armed opposition groups have been responsible for the recruitment and use of children both in combat and support roles," he added.

The U.N. estimates that more than 120,000 people have died in Syria since the conflict began in 2011; of those at least 10,000 were children, according to the report.

"Throughout 2011 and 2012, children as young as 11 years old were among anti-government protesters who were reportedly injured or shot dead by government forces," said the report, detailing the case of a 16-year-old, who was shot in the back of the head in December 2011 by a government sniper and paralyzed.

The children's charity, Save the Children, said both sides in the conflict can and should do more to avoid killing children.

"This means not targeting schools or hospitals, not using explosive weapons in populated areas, not recruiting child soldiers and ensuring that all children in need, wherever they are, are able to access humanitarian assistance," said Carolyn Miles, U.S. chief executive of the organization.

Still, Kopp said the horror for children did not come to an end after leaving the war-torn country.

Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan currently host hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees including tens of thousands of children, traumatized and often living in squalid conditions, say aid officials.

Meanwhile, some Syrians try their luck outside the region, sometimes with dire consequences: Children were among at least 34 people who drowned in October after a boat carrying around 200 migrants mostly from Syria and Palestine capsized 75 miles from the Italian island Lampedusa that they were trying to reach.

In 2013, the number of Syrians who landed on the south coast of Italy increased to 11,307 from 580 in 2012, with around a third of those children, according to Save the Children.

These perilous journeys are common for refugees fleeing situations all over the world, and Kopp called on European governments to change its policy on letting in asylum seekers.

"It's the responsibility of Europe as a neighboring region to do more to support protection seekers, vulnerable women and children, and to find legal and safe ways to bring them out of the region," he said.

In 2012, more than 320,000 people applied for asylum within the European Union, with 24,110 coming from Syria. Germany has taken the most Syrian refugees, granting asylum to more than 10,000, but Kopp said it isn't enough.

"There are children coming from Aleppo and Idlib, who have lost family members, and in some cases seen them killed in attacks carried out by the Syrian regime and also the rebels," he said. "You can see in their faces that they have experienced things that would normally be impossible for adults to stand. They need a place to play and go to school where they can have a normal, daily life in a safe environment."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Aid groups: West must help children escaping Syrian war

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