By the end of 2015, the highest number of displaced people was recorded with around 65 million people fleeing their homes and seeking safer environments elsewhere. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 24 people were forced to abandon their old lives every minute in the last year and while the reasons for their escape can vary, their hope is the same: to find refuge in a safe country.
Many of those displaced found temporary homes in refugee camps in the urban and suburban spaces of Turkey, Greece, Lebanon and Jordan among others. Some of these camps have taken on a life of their own, becoming more than just a temporary settlement for some, while the dire situation of others threaten those who lived in them. Here, we look into the living conditions of refugees in the world’s newest and most populous camps.
Located east of Mafraq, the camp opened for refugees in 2012 to Syrians and over 400, 000 have passed through it. Currently, the 12-district camp is the home of 79,326 displaced Syrians. Around 20% of those living there are between the age of 18 and 59 while 10% are between 5 and 11-years-old.
The camp is connected to the Jordanian road network through a short road, leading to the highway. Earlier this year, the UNHCR attempted to improve the status of the camp through upgrading the shelters and creating an address system for houses. The international agency created a master plan to divide the camp into blocks and implement a restricting plan to insure continued accessibility to waster, electricity and other preliminary services.
“UNHCR has adopted the installation of new immobile shelter prefabs, fitted with a kitchen, WASH facility and 22.5 m2 [square meters] concrete flooring,” the agency says in a report it released last month. The new prefabs were more spacious and allowed the camp residents access to hygienic facilities.
After masses of Syrians arrived the camp, hospitals and clinics were overwhelmed and this called for expansions in heath services. The camp includes clinics administrated by the Médecins Du Monde, the World Health Organization and the Jordan Health Aid Society. The camp also has the 60-bed Moroccan Field Surgical Hospital, established by the Moroccon Royal Army, helped treat over 500, 000 Syrians since 2012 . In 2013, Medecics Sans Frontiers opened a 24-hour 30-bed pediatric hospital.
Housed refugees opened local shops to serve their community and create income for themselves.
Tempelhof Airport, Germany:
Built in 1977, the historic Tempelhof Airport was used to hold events and exhibitions in the city of Berlin. Now, however, the airport-turned-camp is a home to 3,000 Syrian, Afghani and Iraqi refugees. The airport is expected to be the largest in Europe after the expansion work and increasing its capacity to 7,000 people who will live in seven hangars.
The city’s government had to change the law in order to allow for this expansion. Five new temporary building will be added to the site as well as a kindergarten, a school and an area for sports. Although the temporary residence is meant to hold people for a month and a half, some are forced to live there for more than six months due to limited accommodation in the city.
Refugees housed in Tempelhof Airport are served three meals a day but the living conditions in the airport are hard as the refugee center lacks proper infrastructure, kitchens and bathrooms. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) talked to one refugee who said that, aside from the lack of privacy; the camp has no cooking facilities or ordinary toilets.
“This place is good for animals, we thought, but if we talk about humans it’s definitely different,” he told DW.
Just like Tempelhof will be, Idomeni was said to be the largest camp in Europe. Unlike Templehof, however, the Idomeni camp is informal. Located on the border with Macedonia, around 8,000 campers would sleep in tents or outside with no access to basic life facilities. Refugees entered Macedonia through Greece’s Idomeni but after the Macedonian government shut the borders, those displaced started camping in the area.
In May 2016, the Greek government started evacuating the camp and explained that it would place them into state-run camps that have proper infrastructures with electricity, water, showers and even telephones.
“Seven of the shelters are in industrial buildings and two are open-air tent sites,” Greek spokesman for migration Giorgos Kyritsis told The Guardian. “Tents and office-style cubicles will be used for the privacy of families. Some will have air-conditioning and food will be provided.”
Less than a week later, The Guardian reported that the new camps are “not fit for animals.” Talking to refugees, the report highlighted that unlike the government’s announcement, the “warehouses” have no water, electricity or firewood.
“A new assessment by Save the Children in Greece has revealed that refugee and migrant children are being left at risk of exploitation and disease because of an almost total lack of official reception facilities,” Save the Children said in an official statement.
Suruc Refugee Camp, Turkey:
Hosting over two million Syrian refugees, Turkey became the number one country to help with the crisis in Suruc. The country introduced the biggest camp to the world last year with a capacity of 35,000. The camp is divided into 15 neighborhoods with around 3,000 people living in each neighborhood.
Registered refugees are provided with blankets, clothes as well as heaters when they first arrive. Housed refugees are also given food as well as ration cards to help them shop from the camp’s local supermarket. Last year, the camp has two hospitals and seven clinics. A school that can educate 10,000 children was also built inside the camp. The camp also includes a movie theater that screens cartoons for Syrian and Kurdish. Earlier this year, the camp added another hospital with extra clinics to deal with the density of new arrivals.