Tags / Cold Winter For Refugees
Set largely against a bleak grey sky, this video sheds light on the rough conditions in which many are forced to spend the winter months in Ersal, a northern Lebanese town with a large population of Syrian refugees that's long since been troubled with spillover from the civil war next door. The scene of major clashes between the Lebanese government and Al-Nusra/ISIS in August 2014, the video reveals the town's struggles to cope with harsh winter conditions such as strong wind and snow storms.
Qab Elias, Lebanon
January 14, 2015
Syrian refugees living in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley are struggling amid deplorable winter living conditions. Glacial nights and heavy snowfall are their everyday life. Under the snow, their fragile tents often collapse.
Four years after the beginning of the Syrian war, the number of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon has surpassed the 1 million mark. Most of them are jobless, homeless and with little hope of returning anytime soon to their homeland as the war rages on.
With no official refugee camps in Lebanon, their settlements are hastily set up in vacant lots, abandoned buildings, garages and sheds on farmlands. Syrian refugees in the town of Qab Elias in eastern Lebanon say that in their nomadic tents, they are freezing to death.
Dozens of malnourished children run in the snow wearing light clothes. Many of them only have plastic slippers to protect their feet from the icy ground.
Refugee residents in Qab Elias are mostly unemployed and complain that the aid they are receiving is not enough to cover their needs.
Mohammad al-Rasheed, the spokesperson of the settlement, praises the work of World Vision, as they are the only aid organization that visits them and offers them materials and clothes.
“They gave each house a card that differs according to the number of children. Each child is entitled to a box of clothes. There is a group of people here in Qab Elias who received clothes. A box contains, for example, a jacket, several pairs of trousers, gloves and boots,” explains al-Rasheed.
As the war has dragged on, international funds supporting the Syrian refugees have significantly decreased. A huge number of children do not attend school and most of their parents are jobless. The harsh winter weather of the Lebanese mountains has only furthered the misery for people whose lives are now a simple game of survival.
Refugees stand in line in the freezing weather and dusty wind, to get aid from the Red Crescent and other Arab countries. Interview and B Roll footage illustrate the difficulties regularly faced by these Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Azaz camp, along the Turkish border inside Syria, is home to about 7,000 internally displaced people. Refugees fleeing Aleppo and surrounding areas, attempting to cross into Turkey, found the border closed and now survive with very little in the cold and wet of winter, depending on foreign aid for basic necessities.
Refugee camp of Azaz, Syrian border.
Refugees from Halep and surrounding areas have lost their houses under the bombings. They left Halep with just the clothes they had at the time. They have no documents, no money, no belongings. The refugees believed the could cross the Turkish border to escape the massacres, but after a limited number of refugees were accepted by the Turkish government who settled in the nearby camp of Kilis, the border was closed. They had to settle in the camp right on the Syrian border, waiting for a move that does not arrive.
Turkey cannot take more refugees and cannot do more than what actually it does. The refugees must stay were they are, with no home in Syria anymore, no passport to leave the country, as if convicted to stay in the camp.
The excess number refugees not accepted into Turkey settled in September 2012 under big hangars once used by Syrian customs police for storing and checking goods before letting them pass the border. For months the refugees had to sleep right on the pavement, under hangars, under trucks or any other shelter available. No heating, no running water, no latrines, no roof above their heads.
Tents arrived just at around the middle of November 2012, donated by the Red Crescent of Qatar. Since that, three hangars were filled with tents, then other tents were placed on open ground. In December 2012, the number of refugees at the Azaz camp reached about 7000.
Life at the camp is hard. Volunteers from various ONG such as IHH provide meals every day. Supplies come from world wide relief organizations and volunteer donations, but they are not enough to meet the needs of so many. Tents are not waterproof. The pavement is constantly wet when the rain falls, especially hard for those ones settled on open ground. No electricity is supplied. Water is scarce and is brought in big containers for those who need it most. Heating becomes a real issue with the oncoming winter. Kids are sent to the surrounding fields to gather any burning material, but they cannot go too far since the mine fields protecting the no-man’s land are right at border line next to the camp. Refugees burn dry grass. At dusk, they must make return to their tents, because all around there is no light to even walk. They rest by candlelight in their tents until they fall asleep.
Recently a protest calling for better conditions at the camp was held at the border (see other reportage “Syria - protest in the camp of Azaz”, © Michele Pero) to get attention from the Turkish Governor of the area, with no results. These people must stay here. No place where to go, no place to return to. Convicted, forgotten. No one knows for how long.