Syria crisis: Image of four-year-old boy Marwan crossing into Jordan captures plight of refugees

But after photograph went viral on social media, UNHCR forced to explain Marwan only briefly separated from family in confusion of border crossing

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The United Nations refugee agency has been forced to clarify its position on a series of photos showing people crossing the desert into neighbouring Jordan, after one appeared to show a four-year-old boy making the journey alone.

The little boy, named Marwan, was just one of around 1,000 refugees making the long and difficult journey to escape the war-torn country, and was temporarily separated from the rest of his family during the “chaos and confusion” of the border crossing itself.

Marwan was carried across into Jordan by officials with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – and was reunited with his mother around 10 minutes later.

At no point did the UNHCR say the boy made the full crossing alone, but the powerful image was seized upon by social media users on Sunday, and become one of the most shared pictures of the day.

Andrew Harper, the agency’s representative in Jordan who took and posted the original image, explained what happened in a series of tweets.

He wrote: “Just to let you know that Marwan was safely reunited with his mother soon after being carried across the Jordan border.

Andrew Harper posted a wider image from the UNHCR's Jared Kohler showing Marwan at the back of a large group of refugees before he met officials (Twitter)

“Marwan's story is that he was temporarily separated from his family in the chaos of the mass refugees’ crossing into Jordan.

 “When refugees cross, which happens every day, it is the most vulnerable that UNHCR staff Border Guards look out to help.

“Unfortunately in every mass refugee crossing it is the elderly, sick, pregnant and often children that fall behind the main groups.”

While assisting refugees across the border on Sunday, the UNHCR said it was “honoured” to be accompanied by the education activist and 2013 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, 16, was pictured as she was briefed by agency officials, spoke to those fleeing Syria and helped carrying supplies.

Malala Yousafzai (second from left) talks to a newly-arrived 5-year-old-girl and her family (UNHCR)

UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told the Mirror: “ The Syria conflict has now been going on for three years and at the moment we are dealing with 2.4 million refugees.

“The important statistic is that over one million of these refugees are children.

“Because they miss out on education we are calling them the 'lost generation' of Syria.

“Unfortunately there are lots of Marwans out there.”

Watch: Syrian children at 'Container City' refugee camp