Young Syrian Refugees Say They Are Unlikely to Return Permanently to their Homeland Unless the War Ends and Daesh Leaves

  • Bashar Al-Assad’s removal not a precondition for peace or for returning home
  • Canada, the U.S., the UAE and Germany the favoured destinations for young Syrians hoping to migrate

DUBAI, August 3, 2017 – More than half of young Syrian refugees say they are unlikely to return home permanently, and an end to the war and the elimination of Daesh are viewed as the decisive steps needed for them to consider going back.

Those are the key findings from “A Voice for Young Syrian Refugees,” a supplementary survey carried out alongside the 9th annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2017 and focused on the hopes, concerns and aspirations of young Syrians living as refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

For the survey, the international polling company PSB Research conducted 400 face-to-face interviews of young Syrian refugees aged 18-24 years, split equally between men and women, who are living in refugee settlements in Jordan and Lebanon.

Asked how likely they are to permanently return to Syria in the future, 54 percent said unlikely, 42 percent said likely and four percent said they did not know. Given a list of steps that need to be taken before they could return home, 47 percent chose the war ends option as the most important, while 25 percent said Daesh leaving Syria. Trailing far behind were the economic situation improves, chosen by eight percent of the respondents, and Bashar Al-Assad leaves, chosen by seven percent.

The World Bank says the six-year old civil war has so far cost the nation’s economy $226 billion. More than 320,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the conflict and, according to the United Nations, more than 6 million Syrians are internally displaced and just over 5 million are registered as refugees outside of Syria, mostly in camps and settlements in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

“The world has seldom witnessed an exodus of people on the scale we have seen in recent years,” said Don Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller. “Managing this refugee crisis is a global humanitarian challenge, and it requires not only a comprehensive understanding of the situation but also first-hand insight into the views of those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. That is why the annual Arab Youth Survey has canvassed those young Syrians who are currently living as refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.”

Most young refugees do not consider Bashar Al-Assad leaving office as a prerequisite for reaching a peace agreement. Just over a quarter (27 percent) agreed with the statement, There can be no peace agreement as long as Bashar Al-Assad stays in office, versus 71 percent who said ending the fighting is more important than Bashar Al-Assad leaving office, with two percent saying they did not know.

Sunil John, founder and CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, said: “The findings are of significant value to policy makers and civil society in identifying new channels of engagement with the young refugees. While their loss of livelihoods is disturbing enough, their deeper sense of disappointment, as reflected in the findings of the survey, underlines the need for finding alternate and lasting solutions to restore their optimism. We are hopeful that the findings from ‘A Voice for Young Syrian Refugees’ will inspire all stakeholders to identity more tangible solutions in addressing the challenges these young people face.”

Among young Syrians who believe they will be migrating to another country, the survey found 27 percent said Canada was their top pick; 23 percent said the U.S.; the United Arab Emirates and Germany each were chosen by 22 percent; France was the choice for 14 percent and the UK was chosen by 13 percent.

In another finding relating to migration, asked about what can be done to improve their plight, the majority of refugees (56 percent) – and particularly men (67 percent) – said that EU governments could help most by permitting more refugees to enter the EU, while 42 percent said providing financial help to their host countries of Jordan and Lebanon would help more, a response made by 52 percent of women compared with 32 percent of men.

Young Syrian refugees are divided on whether Russia’s impact on the conflict is positive or negative, with 49 percent saying positive and 46 percent saying negative. The majority (66 percent) of young Syrian refugees surveyed said they do not believe Donald Trump’s U.S. presidency will change the course of the conflict, with one in four (23 percent) expecting it to get worse.

One question compared the views of young Syrian refugees with their peers in the wider Middle East, as gauged by the 9th annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2017. Asked whether Daesh had become stronger or weaker over the past year, 77 percent of young Syrian refugees said the terrorist group had become weaker – a significantly higher percentage than their peers in the Middle East as a whole, where 61 percent of youth said Daesh was getting weaker.

About the Arab Youth Survey:
The ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, launched in 2008, is the largest survey of its kind of the Middle East’s largest demographic – its youth. It provides governments, the private sector and civil society with insights into the hopes, concerns and aspirations of Arab youth. As part of the 9th Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2017, international polling firm PSB Research conducted 400 face-to-face interviews between February 12 to March 12, 2017 with Syrian refugees aged 18-24 living in camps and settlements in Jordan and Lebanon (N=200 interviews per country). In Jordan, interviews were conducted in three refugee camps: Al Za’atary, Al’Azraq, and Mrajeeb Al Fhood. In Lebanon, interviews were conducted in Tripoli, in the Beirut suburbs Dahieh, Ain Remmaneh and Sin el Fil, and in Marjeyoun and Nabatieh. The interviews were completed in Arabic and English. Respondents were exclusively Syrian nationals. The gender split of the survey is 50:50 male to female. The margin of error of the refugee survey is +/-4.85 per cent.

The full Arab Youth Survey 2017 consists of 3,500 face-to-face interviews with Arab men and women aged 18 to 24. Fieldwork was conducted from February 7 and March 7. The survey is the largest of its kind of the region’s largest demographic, and covers the six Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) the Levant (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories) and Yemen. The Survey has not included Syria since 2011, due to the civil unrest in the country. In-depth results from the Survey, including a white paper in Arabic and English, are available on

About ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller:
Established in 2000, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller is the region’s leading public relations consultancy, with 11 fully-owned offices and six affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa. The agency provides services to governments, multinational businesses and regional corporate clients and institutions, operating five specialist communication practices – Brand Communication, Corporate, Financial, Enterprise & Technology and Public Affairs. A digital, design and marketing subsidiary – Proof ME, and a full-service research insights agency – PSB Research Middle East – complete the offering. ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller is part of the global Burson-Marsteller network and a WPP company. More at

About PSB Research:
PSB Research, a member of Young & Rubicam Group and the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specialises in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip corporate, political and entertainment clients. PSB’s operations include over 200 consultants and a sophisticated in-house market research infrastructure with the capability to conduct work in over 90 countries. The company operates offices around the world, including in Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, London, Hamburg, Madrid and Dubai, which are supported by in-house field capabilities and fully equipped to provide the complete creative solutions PSB clients need. More at

For further information, please contact:
Sunil John/ Margaret Flanagan
ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller
Dubai, UAE
T: 971 4 4507600