Emergencies

Meet the ‘mother of the jungle’ at Dunkirk refugee camp

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Roonak, pictured with her son Beshwar, centre

“The only thing that people have here is hope,” says Beshwar. “There’s no clean water. There are no showers, there aren’t enough toilets. What else do we have?”

The mud consumes everything in the dank squalor of the Grande-Synthe camp, near Dunkirk. Flimsy tents offer little protection from the rain and cold. Rats and diseases are rife. It is inhumane.

The camp is home to around 3,000 refugees, mostly Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. There are many families here, including around 300 children.

The inhabitants spend their days trying to keep warm and dry. They spend their nights trying to find an unguarded lorry bound for the UK.

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In Mongolia, beware of the dzud

Oyunbatt stands outside a snow-covered log house

Oyunbatt outside his home

No, that’s not a typo. It’s a rather dramatic weather event.

People in Mongolia are used to harsh winters. But this year the winter is even worse than usual: the country is in the grip of a ‘dzud’ (pronounced zood) – a hot, dry summer followed by a freezing, windy and snowy winter.

Temperatures average lower than -40° Celsius at night. Can you imagine?

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Refugee crisis: cold and alone with nowhere to go

Grande-Synthe-Aram.2Aram is 16. His parents are dead. His younger brothers are in Iraq. He is alone in France.

For the last three months he has been living in the squalid Grande-Synthe camp, home to around 3,000 refugees and migrants, near Dunkirk.

He was brought here by people smugglers, hidden in the back of a car. He had no idea where he was, or where he was going.

“I don’t like it here, it’s a crazy place,” he says in a softly spoken voice.

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Syria crisis: Escaping the snipers and bombs

Syrian refugees, Jordan

©BritishRedCross/IvorPrickett

For someone who has been through so much, Maher is exceptionally calm and dignified.

His is a tale of desperation and sadness, but it is by no means unique.

I meet him in the small basement flat that he shares with his wife, Fatima, and father. The family sleep in a tiny room that floods regularly.

They don’t seem to mind; they are just grateful to be alive.

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Syrian refugees start afresh in Turkey

Refugees-Croatia

Turkey hosts more refugees than any other nation in the world. Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, visited the country recently and saw how Syrians are trying to settle into a new way of life.

I met Rana* at a community centre in Istanbul. Along with a group of other women, she was taking part in a Turkish language course organised by our partner the Turkish Red Crescent.

Some of them had been in Turkey for several years, others just a few weeks. Rana used to be a dentist in Aleppo.

Her English was word perfect and we chatted about her journey out of Syria and some of the challenges she and her family now face.

She told me about the frustrations of not being able to work and the difficulty of learning a new language.

I asked her what her preference would be: stay in Turkey and start a new life, or go back to Syria? She smiled at me. “I still carry the key to my home in Aleppo,” came the reply.

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Syria crisis: a grave would be better than this life

Syria crisis winter

©AbdulazizAl-droubi/SyrianArabRedCrescent

Cold, lonely, hungry and surrounded by conflict. There is little to cheer for Mohamad.

All he has is hope. Hope that one day the guns in Syria will fall silent and that life will return to normal.

“What is this war? We cannot understand it,” he said.

The stories and photos that have emerged from Madaya in recent days have highlighted the plight of those left behind in Syria.

And while much of the focus has been on the besieged town near Damascus, the sad truth is that millions of people across Syria are in exactly the same position.

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Supporting displaced people through Iraq’s harsh winter

Iraqi family sitting in a makeshift tent

Millions of Iraqis are living in difficult conditions after fleeing their homes ©ICRC

Imagine the population of Birmingham – around one million people – having to flee their homes and live in tents, abandoned buildings or temporary shelters. Now imagine this happening at the same time in Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield.

This is the reality in Iraq right now. There are over three million displaced people in Iraq ­– families who have been forced to move to other parts of the country to escape intense fighting.

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Refugee crisis: people of the dump

Refugees FranceQusay has become accustomed to the noise and stench of living next to a landfill site.

Every day, large tipper trucks dump tonnes of household waste about 50 metres from his flimsy tent.

The smell infiltrates your every breath. This is not a place for human habitation.

Yet, just a stone’s throw away from the smouldering piles of waste, a ramshackle camp has become home for Qusay and around 250 people.

You do not have to think too hard to see the symbolism in their surroundings.

Like the rubbish in the dump, they appear to have been discarded by society.

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