What if Surrey were Syria?

As 4,000 Syrians flee every day, fake checkpoints give UK suburbs a taste of life under siege

Thursday, 27 August 2015 - 10:46am

The daily exodus fleeing the brutal Syrian conflict has reached 4,000 refugees every day since the end of last year* and half of them are children. Syria’s deadliest summer yet has sparked a global refugee crisis, with Greece experiencing a refugee influx which has skyrocketed 750% compared with last year, with two thirds of them from Syria.**

But still the vast majority of refugees are being cared for in Syria’s neighbouring countries and more people flee across its borders every day than total the population of the Calais ‘jungle’.

This new analysis coincides with a social experiment which revealed British citizens instinctively respond to breaches of human rights on their own turf, some even risking their own safety for the sake of strangers.

Save the Children used hidden cameras to record genuine public reactions to a series of events unimaginable in the UK but sadly common place in Syria. Standard services were temporarily cut off, leaving Surrey residents under the illusion that they had no access to food, school and medical care.

YouTube link: http://y2u.be/IpBGfmIMfr0

One mother, whose daughter’s school was temporarily shut (with permission of the Head Teacher but without knowledge of the parents or pupils), said:

“The gates were shut. I thought, why can’t my children go to school? I am getting emotional thinking about it. It made me realise that we do need to be aware, and make our children aware, of what is going on.”

The short film, which used actors to set up the fake scenarios, captures real-time reactions of the public, who were overwhelmingly horrified and angry to discover school gates shut, shops with empty shelves and a fake ambulance brought to a stand-still by ‘guards’ at an arbitrary ‘check-point’. Surrey Police were on hand to safely manage the stunts. 

More than 11 million people have fled their homes and 420,000 people are living under siege inside Syria. Some communities are blocked off from essential supplies and families are having to forage for food to survive. Citizens caught smuggling aid into cities under siege, risk being persecuted and potentially killed. 

When these scenarios were faced by Surrey citizens, it was unacceptable to passers-by, who risked their own safety to uphold the rights of their children and community; rights to food, health care and schooling. But just because it isn't happening here, doesn't mean it isn't happening. 

Justin Forsyth, CEO Save the Children, said: “A tiny fraction of Syrian refugees make it to Europe. The poorest, the sick and the elderly remain under siege, barrel-bombed, gassed and shot, starved of food and medicine. 

“Despite the generosity of the UK government and others, more widely, money to assist millions living in refugees camps is drying up. These families now face an extreme choice, to return to a war zone or risk drowning as they are smuggled into Europe. If the average European citizen would not stand for being cut off from food, healthcare and schooling, why should Syrian families?”

Save the Children is calling for:

  1. Aid to reach the 12 million Syrians in desperate need, including almost 6 million children: the UN must use all its weight to negotiate access;
  2. An end to sieges and the withholding of humanitarian relief, as an illegal weapon of war;
  3. Neighbouring countries to keep their borders open to refugees;
  4. Wealthy countries, including the UK, to resettle their fair share of refugees from Syria.


To donate to Save the Children’s Syria Appeal visit


Or call +44 (0)20 7012 6400



YouTube link:  http://y2u.be/IpBGfmIMfr0

Embed code: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/IpBGfmIMfr0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

For further information please contact the Save the Children Press Office on media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 (0)207 012 6841 / +44 (0)7831 650 409



*Calculating the average daily total of refugees fleeing Syria since 28 December 2014:

As of 25 August 2015 there were 4,089,023 Syrian refugees. 51.1% of them were children - meaning there were approximately 2,085,401 Syrian refugee children. 

On 28 December 2014 there were 3,218,819 Syrian refugees and if about 51% of them were children that would mean there were 1,641,597 children.

Therefore approximately 870,204 Syrian refugees have fled so far since 28 December 2014 and as 240 days have passed since then, making an average of 3,626 per day. 

Approximately 443,804 children have fled since 28 December 2014 and as 240 days have passed since then, this makes an average of 1,849 children per day.

Therefore approximately 4,000 people including 2,000 children have fled Syria every day since the end of last year.

**UNHCR: http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php