Standing next to a pile of rubbish as high as a hill, Ali, a 12-year-old child from Mosul, looks excitedly at his latest discovery. “They say it’s expired, but I am still eating it,” he says, popping a strawberry candy into his mouth. Like Ali, dozens of displaced Iraqi children who fled from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group are now working in a massive landfill site 15km outside of Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region. They scavenge their way through tonnes of rubbish to collect plastic and metal to sell to recycling plants, making between 10,000 and 30,000 Iraqi dinars ($9 to $27) a day. “This is not an appropriate place for children, but they are forced to do it,” landfill supervisor Ali Hessah told Al Jazeera, noting he leaves the gates of his dump site open so that displaced children and their parents can work. “This is not a life, but we have no choice,” said Ahmed, 16, who fled Mosul a year and a half ago. No longer in school, Ahmed and his 12-year-old brother are now among the children who scavenge for a living.
Five years since the start of Syria’s war, millions of Syrians are struggling to survive as refugees, not knowing when they will be able to return home – or whether they will have a home to return to. The Danish Refugee Council offers a glimpse of life through the eyes of Syria’s children, as they seek refuge in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. The children discuss their hopes and dreams as they struggle to make sense of their new, fragile and confined worlds.