Monday, July 6, 2015

An Empty Refugee Camp

Azraq Refugee Camp, Photo: Alisa Reznick/Al Jazeera
You probably imagine a refugee camp as being overcrowded with people. Yet there is a refugee camps that is almost empty due to the harsh living conditions refugees face there.

Azraq refugee camp opened its gates over one year ago to meet the soaring numbers of refugees fleeing Syria. Yet, despite the offer of a shelter for every resident, the camp stands mostly empty. This is because of the living conditions in the camp. Located on a barren piece of land in the northern Jordanian desert, the camp houses 18,500 refugees, with 10,000 under the age of 18. But the residents describe the living conditions as harsh, with scorching summer heat, dust storms, and fierce winds. Schools services and education programs are available for children, but high temperatures keep children at home. The camp has no electricity, and so refugees cannot use fans or refrigerators inside their shelters. Furthermore, the prices for food have increased, and with a $29 per month food voucher, families cannot afford basic food items.

 For more on Azraq, see this photo essay from AlJazeera.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Job and a Bicycle: One Experience of Child Labor in Beirut

In this video, UNICEF highlights one of its partner organizations, Himaya in Lebanon, through the story of Ahmad. Amad is a 15-year-old Syrian refugee living in Lebanon, who narrates his struggles living and working in Beirut.

The video shows the challenges of child labor. A child cannot just transition from working and supporting his family to attending school. The child may not have attended school before. Plus the impact on the family economy must be considered, as these children are often supporting their families financially. Himaya rightly notes that child labor must be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Waiting in Turkey's "Baking Camp"

UNHCR just released a news report on the conditions at Suruç camp, the largest refugee camp in Turkey. Built by UNICEF and Turkey's Emergency and Disaster Management Presidency (AFAD) in the middle of 2014, Suruç now houses 25,000 mostly Kurdish refugees from Kobane, Syria.

The article describes the overwhelming heat inside the camp, where "the sun offers relentless heat and pitiless light which bounces off soil bleached almost white." Understandably, families tend to stay inside their tents to escape the heat of the day.

Suruç Refugee Camp, Photo: Associated Press
What are the implications for children's mobility in these contexts? What are their lives like when the environment does not allow for freedom of movement? How do families cope with earning livelihoods in these contexts?