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So Where Are the Main Syrian Refugee Camps Located?
Since its outbreak in 2011, the Syrian civil war has created an estimated 11 million refugees. Many of these refugees have fled to neighboring countries, but the conflict has created a global refugee crisis. Contrary to popular belief, however, only an estimated one in 10 of these refugees live in camps. So where are Syrian Refugee Camps? Most are located in the surrounding countries of Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Greece.

Turkey

Although Turkey houses more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, their camps can only house 200,000 people. This has become a cause for concern as photos from these camps show extremely cramped and dangerous conditions. While life in these camps is often less than ideal, the UK has deemed Turkey to be a safe country for refugees.

Jordan

Jordan hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees. The largest Syrian refugee camp in the world is located in Jordan, and the conditions here are much better than camps found in other parts of the world. This camp called Zaatari is home to 3,000 refugee-owned businesses. These businesses provide entrepreneurial opportunities for refugees and contribute to Jordan’s economy, generating an estimated $13 million per month.

Iraq

Iraq is home to more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, and all of these refugees are in areas controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government. Camps here, such as the al-Hol camp have become home to both Syrian refugees and Iraqi citizens fleeing violence in places like Mosul, resulting in extremely crowded conditions. As the number of Syrian refugees shows no sign of slowing, access to basic necessities in these camps is becoming a serious concern.

Greece

Where are Syrian refugee camps in Europe? Many exist in Greece, where conditions are often dismal. Human rights groups have raised concerns about the conditions that Syrian refugees are facing in Greek camps as they wait for asylum or relocation. Many of these camps are overcrowded, and refugees have reported poor hygiene, a lack of medical care and dehydration. The situation for refugees living in Greek camps is especially dangerous with the impending onset of a cold winter.

In 2014, the U.N. refugee agency reported the highest total number of displaced people since World War II. Syria is one of the three countries with the most refugees, and the situation within the country shows no signs of improving. This refugee crisis is a humanitarian disaster and it is imperative that the global community respond by ensuring better living conditions for those seeking asylum and those living in Syrian refugee camps.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Art Responds to the Refugee Crisis in A World Not OursThe Syrian refugee crisis receives enormous amounts of news coverage and is often a source of debate as a political and humanitarian issue. Still, for people removed from the situation it can be difficult to truly comprehend the severity of the situation. This is where art can serve as a way to engage a wider audience and explain the issues on a human level as opposed to politically and statistically.

In the past couple of years, there have been many notable art exhibitions dedicated to the refugee crisis. Most recently the exhibit A World Not Ours has received a significant amount of attention.

A World Not Ours is an exhibition backed by the Schwarz Foundation and curated by Katerina Gregos at the Art Space Pythagorion in the Greek Island of Samos. Greece is currently home to 57,000 refugees. A diverse group of artists illustrates the hardships and trauma of refugee life, hoping to create a greater understanding of the crisis and empathy for those 21 million refugees.

Lebanese artist Ninar Esber created a two-hour live performance piece, The Blind Lighthouse. A woman’s face is completely covered as she stands on top of a lighthouse facing the sea. The lights on the structure are very dim but the audience is encouraged to approach. However, once they approach, she turns away. It is an attempt to demonstrate the treacherous and unpredictable voyage refugees must take when they leave their country. The Schwarz Foundation states the performance “encourages us to reflect upon our relations with those on the ‘other’ side.”

Another artist featured is Tanja Boukal, who originates from Austria. She exhibited the photo collage Memories of Travels and Dreams which consists of a collection of items the artist found on her trip from Kuşadas, Turkey to Samos, Greece. She compares the trips between tourists and refugees. Though they are going to the same destinations, the trips are vastly different. Tourist buys a $40 ferry ticket in which they are offered varied amenities. A stark contrast from the $1500 refugees must pay to travel on a small, overcrowded and usually faulty boats.

Other artists include Yannis Behrakis, Róza El-Hassan, Mahdi Fleifel, Marina Gioti, Sallie Latch and many others.

Curator Gregos says “while exhibitions like these do not solve the problem, they do keep it alive in our minds and maintain public awareness so that the necessary debate continues. What is needed, ultimately, is empathy, the ability to consider the question ‘what if this were me? How would I react then?”

It is worthwhile to view the artwork presented in A World Not Ours because it offers an emotive perspective on the refugee crisis.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Where are the Palestinian Refugees Camps?
The 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict marked the beginning of a long journey for Palestinians. During the war, approximately 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes in what is now Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories and became refugees. Following the 1948 war, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was established by the U.N. General Assembly to provide relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees.

The UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The definition was later expanded to include all descendants of male Palestinian refugees, including adopted children. Consequently, 68 years after the 1948 war and subsequent conflicts and uprisings, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from 700,000 to roughly 5 million.

Most of the refugees sought asylum in neighboring Arab countries, where temporary camps were established and have since become permanent settlements. Nearly one-third, or 1.6 million, of Palestinian refugees live in 58 camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The remaining two-thirds primarily live in or near the cities of host countries and territories, including those internally displaced in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories.

Gaza Strip

The Gaza Strip is a tiny enclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea bordering Israel and Egypt. The territory has a population of 1.7 million, of which 1.3 million are registered Palestinian refugees. Subject to a blockade on all sides, residents of Gaza have severely restricted freedom of movement, and Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth.

Continuous conflict between Hamas and Israel has also worsened the conditions within the Gaza Strip and has internally displaced thousands since the original 1948 conflict. As a result, 80% of the population is dependent on international assistance, and the eight refugee camps regularly face shortages of food, clean drinking water, medicine and opportunities to lift themselves out of the camps.

West Bank

The West Bank is an Israeli occupied territory located between Israel and Jordan with a population of 2.7 million. There are nearly 775,000 registered refugees living in the territory, mostly living in major towns and rural areas. However, around a quarter of the registered refugees live in 19 camps scattered throughout the territory. Although conditions are generally better than Gaza, refugees living in camps in the West Bank also face squalid living conditions and major freedom of movement restrictions.

Syria

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, thousands of Palestinians fled to Syria where they were generally welcomed and treated well. They were granted the same duties and responsibilities as Syrian citizens, other than political rights and nationality. As a result, by 2003 there were over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria living in nine camps and in Syrian cities.

Syria’s ongoing civil war has severely exacerbated the plight of Palestinian refugees in the country, leaving many in besieged or hard to reach areas. Before the conflict began in 2011, UNRWA estimated there were 526,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the country. Today, many of the camps have been deserted or destroyed, and the refugees that remain in Syria continually experience a deterioration of humanitarian conditions. For instance, the Yarmouk Camp, located just outside Damascus and home to roughly 160,000 Palestinian refugees prior to the war, recently experienced fierce clashes between rebel groups, ISIS and the Syrian Army. The fighting left nearly 18,000 refugees without food, water and medical supplies, and resulted in a severe Typhoid outbreak.

Lebanon

Situated on the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Syria, Lebanon has a population of 6.2 million, of which 450,000 are registered Palestinian refugees. The country is also home to thousands of undocumented and unregistered Palestinians, with estimates ranging from 10,000 to 40,000. Overall, Palestinians are thought to make up 10% of the total Lebanese population.

Around half of all Palestinian refugees in Lebanon reside in 12 refugee camps. Although many of these camps have existed for decades, they routinely suffer from high rates of poverty, unemployment and other issues such as overcrowding and lack of sufficient infrastructure. Those living outside the registered Palestinian refugee camps suffer continued discrimination, are denied basic rights and are even barred from working in certain professions. Consequently, Lebanon has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees living in abject poverty among all other countries and territories UNRWA operates in.

Jordan

Jordan shares a border with Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the West Bank, and has a population of 8.2 million. Jordan is home to the highest number of Palestinian refugees, with 2.1 million registered and thousands more that have fled Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. Palestinians account for approximately a quarter of the total Jordanian population.

Most, but not all, Palestinian refugees have been granted full Jordanian citizenship and have been well integrated into society for decades. However, nearly 370,000 are settled in ten camps throughout the country. An additional 10,000 that have crossed the border from Syria live in camps along the border that have increasingly dire conditions and residents are prohibited from leaving.

Originally forced to flee fighting in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian refugees have long endured turbulent and unstable conditions since leaving home. Many have fled war only to be met with more violence and conflict in places such as Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. Many are faced with severe human rights violations and are denied freedom of movement, leaving many to be born, live and die in the same place. In addition to these issues, the right of refugees to ultimately return to their homeland remains a major obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

For now, Palestinians remain part of the harrowing refugee crisis of the 21st century.

-Brendan Hennessey

Photo: Flickr

Life after ISIS
After more than two years of intense fighting with ISIS, the extremist group seems to finally be getting pushed back. Now, the question of how life after ISIS will be arises. In late June, Iraqi forces retook Fallujah, one of ISIS’s largest captured cities. Now, allied troops are conducting an offensive effort on Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, and Raqqa, the ISIS capital. Of the 10 million people living under ISIS controlled territory at its peak, nearly 4 million have been liberated. U.S. led coalition and Russian air strikes have also helped destroy ISIS’s oil infrastructure, reducing its state revenue from an estimated $2.9 billion to $2.4 billion.

With ISIS clearly on the defense, it is time to begin planning the reconstruction phase, both politically and physically. While the U.S. has spent at least $6.5 billion on the military campaign, it has only contributed $15 million to stabilization efforts. Although Kerry has announced $155 million in additional aid for displaced Iraqis, the U.N., however, is seeking $400 million from the U.S. government and its allies to help rebuild the cities it has damaged.

Besides the need to rebuild infrastructure, government officials will need to address the many internally and externally displaced refugees. There are an estimated 6.6 million refugees internally displaced within Syria, 4.8 million outside of Syria, and 3 million Iraqis within Iraq. Refugees will need basic necessities like food and shelter, but also education and work opportunities for permanent relocation. Externally displaced refugees will need plenty of guidance with cultural adjustment as well.

Perhaps most importantly, in life after ISIS, government officials will also need to create long-term reconstruction plans within the Syrian and Iraqi regions. Because ISIS rose from the power vacuum created by the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011, U.S. officials should be especially wary and considerate in how it ends this conflict. Answering the question of Kurdish sovereignty is also essential, although the U.S.’s role in that may be diminished. In Syria, there is still the concern over Assad’s rule, which led to the inhumane civil war and indirectly aided ISIS’s quick expansion.

While political installations or overthrows may be the riskiest for the U.S., some have suggested establishing educational institutions as centers for peace. Rather than spreading religion through the caliphate, centralized institutions can educate on Islam bringing different ethnicities together. Though ideal, the reality that another extremist group may take the place of ISIS exists if there is no centralized, robust peace established. There is no better time than now for peaceful reform.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

State of Refugees Worldwide
When it comes to the state of refugees and displaced people worldwide, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stands ready to protect the rights of those forced to leave their homes. Since the commission’s start in 1950, the UNHCR budget has grown from $300,000 in its first year to around $7 billion in 2015. This agency collects a lot of data regarding the whereabouts and status of refugees around the world in order to maintain a steady and productive presence.

With 65.3 million forcibly displaced people, 21.3 million refugees and 10 million stateless individuals, this type of organization and statistical bookkeeping is essential to progress. Currently, the world is peaking at its highest rate of displacement on record. About half of the global refugee population is under 18, and around 34,000 men, women and children are displaced every day, begging the questions: What countries are these refugees forced to leave? What countries have taken them in?

It is measured that 53 percent of all the world’s refugees are departing from just three countries: Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria — in that order. The civil war in Somalia is the single largest event adding to the refugee population, currently forcing refugees to flee into surrounding areas such as Kenya for the past 24 years.

While in Afghanistan, rampant insurgency from the Taliban and Daesh keep refugees from returning home. Most notable in the current media landscape is the third largest refugee contributor, Syria, which is experiencing genocide, civil war and an increasingly destabilized sociopolitical landscape.

With such a massive population exiting the places they call home, every part of the globe has had to accept displaced peoples. The regions harboring the most refugees are the Middle East and North Africa, collectively populated by 39 percent of all of the world’s displaced individuals. Surprisingly, the United States and Europe admit the least amount of people to seek refuge within their borders at 12 percent and six percent respectively.

As for the individual nations containing the highest refugee populations, Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon top the list with Iran, Ethiopia and Jordan not far behind. Turkey currently contains 2.5 million displaced individuals from a multitude of areas, establishing the country as a refugee capitol of sorts. The next closest, Pakistan, contains 1.6 million displaced people. Most of this group comes from Afghanistan, as Pakistan is the closest geographic neighbor for much of the Afghan population.

The UNHCR is currently working in 128 different countries to alleviate the suffering that comes with the mass diaspora. Increased funding, as well as more nations willing to accept those without homes, is required if these problems are to end eventually. Many within the U.S. and abroad continue to work tirelessly to provide future for people with no say in how their lives progress. It will take global cooperation to see this crisis to a peaceful resolution and better the current state of refugees around the world.

– Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

The Kurdish Democracy Model
In Northern Syria, the Kurdish communities have established three administrative and autonomous regions. These regions are called cantons and each enjoys their own legislative, administrative and legal bodies. Although these cantons are part of the Syrian territory, the Kurdish communities enjoyed autonomy in the wake of the Syrian crisis and oppression from the Islamic State fighters. These three cantons are named Afrin, Jezira and Kobani.

The Kurdish democracy model is an outcome of the Rojava movement, which seeks autonomy for Kurdish communities in Syria. The model is manifested in the Rojava constitution, which is also known as the social contract. It was approved on Jan. 6, 2016.

The preamble of the constitution reads as: “We the peoples of the democratic autonomous regions…by our free will have announced this contract to establish justice, freedom and democracy … without discrimination on the basis of religion, language, faith sect or gender.”

This Kurdish democracy model does not accept any imposed ideas of nation-state, centralized, military or religious state. It solemnly believes in human rights, democracy, free will and strives to protect those goals no matter what the cost is.

In every canton, there is a Legislative Assembly, an Executive Assembly, a High Election Commission, a Constitutional Assembly and Regional Assemblies. The Rojava Movement resembles historic acts of resistance such as the Algerian war against France and the Warsaw battle against invading Germany.

The Rojava cantons are remarkable examples of beacons of hope emerging from the Syrian civil war. Rojava maintained its independence and created its own democracy. In the Kurdish democracy model, the top three officials have to be from Arab, Kurdish and an Assyrian/Armenian Christian. One of these has to be women. In this phase of the Kurdish struggle, the Kurdish democracy model could start a global movement towards a better implementation of democracy and a cooperative socioeconomic model.

Financial Times describes the Kurdish democratic model as a power to people model. It is a radical experiment in narrow stretches of Northern Syria. In Rojava, which is hard to access due to Turkish blockade, the authority rests in the communal level (the village). In the villages, every social group has a say in decision making. The communities enjoy self-governing measures.

Furthermore, all minorities are included and everyone gets a chance to speak and participate in governing matters. This might seem radical to even the old-established democracies. But for the Kurds, after decades of oppression, this is one thing to look forward upon with eyes full of hope.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Syria
After six years of continuous conflict and civil war, hunger in Syria has become a major crisis. Providing the necessary food aid for Syrians has become increasingly difficult as the danger escalates and the number of refugees multiplies.

Over 11 million Syrians have fled their homes to other Syrian cities or neighboring countries in search of safety. According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees. As the conflict continues, the issue of hunger in Syria intensifies. Despite these difficulties, international organizations are doing everything they can to help Syrians in need. Here are five facts about the triumphs and challenges of hunger in Syria:

  1. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, 8.7 million people in Syria are food insecure.
    Food insecurity refers to the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient amount of affordable and nutritious food. Soaring food prices have only exacerbated the situation. Prices for bread, the cornerstone of the Syrian diet, have increased by more than 100% since 2014.
  2. The ShareTheMeal app has helped feed nearly 25,000 Syrians over the past year.
    The ShareTheMeal app allows participants to donate just $0.50 in order to feed a child for an entire day. Since November 2015, ShareTheMeal has provided Syrian refugee children and mothers with food support for an entire year.
  3. Food production in Syria has dropped by 40% since 2010.
    Nearly half of Syria’s population lives in rural regions. The war has destroyed agricultural infrastructure and irrigation systems, which has, in turn, decreased production. Wheat, in particular, has suffered dramatically from both the conflict and low rainfall.
  4. The World Food Program (WFP) is providing 240,000 Syrian children with nutrient supplements to prevent malnutrition.
    Child malnutrition can lead to stunting, disease and even death. In order to prevent undernutrition, WFP provides ready-to-eat, specialized nutritional products to thousands of Syrian children under the age of 5.
  5. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) has distributed food parcels to over 2.5 million people.
    SARC is one of the only organizations working in the entirety of Syria to provide humanitarian aid. Every month, SARC distributes food parcels and health care items to over three million people in need.

Although it will take $86.5 million this year to assist the nearly three million people in need who remain in the country, hunger in Syria can be diminished. WFP, UNHCR and their partners have taken great strides to accomplish this goal. With an increase in the International Affairs budget, the U.S. can also help save the lives of millions of Syrians suffering from hunger.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in GermanyGerman chancellor Angela Merkel has made refugees in Germany a priority. As the Syrian refugee crisis unfolded, the chancellor decided on an open-door policy, which allowed over one million refugees to resettle in Germany. Recently, Merkel urged German corporations to integrate refugees into companies more quickly, arguing that refugee employment will support the German economy. And there is no shortage of refugees in Germany who are ready to work; the latest reports provided by the Federal Employment Agency state that 346,000 people with asylum status sought employment in the month of August alone.

Large German companies are hesitant to hire refugees for a myriad of reasons. Companies argue that they do not want to risk their productivity by employing refugees who don’t currently possess the necessary skills. Companies may also have qualms about the fact that many refugees have yet to become fluent in German, and that 80 percent of asylum seekers do not possess a primary- or secondary-level education.

Legal issues still remain, such as incomplete paperwork for asylum approval and a lack of proper identification for background checks. Merkel and some German companies, however, are working to make it easier for refugees to land jobs that not only provide income but also the skills necessary to be qualified contenders in the job market.

Despite the trepidation of some German companies towards refugee employment, many are using the influx of people to their advantage. Germany’s national rail carrier, Deutsche Bahn, announced that over the next two years it will create room for an additional 150 refugees in its qualification program, which includes German language courses. Deutsche Post currently employs more than 100 refugees, and national internet service provider Deutsche Telekom plans to hire 75 refugees through an apprenticeship program as well. Companies such as Mercedes, Siemens and Daimler have even created pre-training programs to prepare refugees for apprenticeships.

With the support of German companies, refugees in Germany can build better lives.

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

I Am SyriaI Am Syria is a nonprofit organization that promotes the interests and concerns of Syrians by educating the world about the Syrian conflict.

Many people around the world have developed a negative stereotype of Syrians, particularly due to the recent upsurge of refugees. In 2015, the total number of refugees shot up to 4 million contributing to the most severe humanitarian crisis in modern history.

Terror attacks that have occurred since then are commonly linked to the large numbers of infiltrated refugees and foreigners. However, despite popular belief, evidence shows that 80 percent of domestic acts of terrorism are committed by Americans.

The negative attitude toward Syrians originates from the media, from where Syrians have been labeled terrorists since March of 2011 when some Syrians assembled for a peaceful protest movement for democracy. In hopes of debunking the biased and inaccurate information being fed to people all over the world concerning Syrians, I Am Syria has made it their mission to educate young students with recent news and reliable articles written by Syrians in the movement through lesson plans.

The curriculum is intended to inform students of the facts involving the Islamic state and the refugee crisis, while also encouraging the students to preemptively brainstorm positive ways to generate change. Students are exposed to the suffering of the impoverished innocent Syrians, rather than the alarming work of the extremists. These types of images illicit emotions that, in turn, drive the students to want to do something to help.

The voices of those who need help in Syria are drowned out by the oppressive Syrian regime that manipulates media in its favor and distorts the story. I Am Syria seeks to mend the bond between people can help and those who are in need of help by removing the stereotypes and that accompany the inaccurate allegations made toward Syrians. What’s left is the story of innocent families who have encountered so much violence and anguish, and have fled their homes in search of a better life.

I Am Syria is tackling the issue of stereotyping Syrian refugees one classroom at a time, empowering the world’s youth by making them aware of the tragedies that are occurring in the world, opening the floor for discussion and coming up with solutions to derail the inaccurate images of Syrians and helping refugees reclaim their lives.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Early Childhood Education in the Middle EastOngoing conflict continues to hinder early childhood education in the Middle East. There are about 8,500 schools that are unusable in the region. UNICEF reports that 13 million children are not attending school as a result of violence, displacement and structural damages to schools.

Schools in countries like Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Sudan are used as shelters and storage areas in war zones. This damages the quality of the education facilities and makes them unusable when the conflict ends.

The report also suggests that there should be more financial support for early childhood education in the Middle East. Such a change needs effective work from policy makers to bring the attention of donors and supporters to the problems of child education in the region.

Moreover, the Middle Eastern governments were known for their low spending on education and basic educational facilities for children. This has even decreased from in the recent few years. In 2001, the Middle East and North Africa region spent 17.6 percent of its GDP in education. In 2008, this measure fell to 13.6 percent.

In spite of the discouraging statistics, parents in the Middle East are realizing the importance of providing education. For example, families in the UAE are willing to spend less on luxurious services and more on their children’s education. Parents realize that improving early childhood education in the Middles East provides a foundation for success in higher education and sustainable future generations.

Many students in the Middle East are looking forward to studying abroad, mainly in the United States. Parents want their children to gain an international experience that will ensure success and interaction with different cultural perspectives.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr