German artist gives masterclass to Syrian refugee children in Iraq

News Stories, 17 December 2013

© UNHCR/W.Spindler
Graphic artist Reinhard Kleist giving an art workshop to Syrian refugee children in the Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq.

ERBIL, Iraq, December 16 (UNHCR) Award-winning graphic artist Reinhard Kleist says working with Syrian refugee children in northern Iraq as part of an ambitious multimedia project was the most emotional work he has ever done. "Unlike my work in Berlin, here I can interact directly with my subjects and see how they react to my drawings," the 43-year-old said after conducting a recent masterclass for children in Kawergosk refugee camp.

He was there to take part in a project by the Franco-German television channel, ARTE, to produce documentary programmes, interactive games, texts, photos and artwork from four refugee camps around the world.

Berlin-based Kleist is the author of several graphic novels and comic strips [http://www.reinhard-kleist.de]. He devised the art workshop for children aged 8-14 years as a way of giving something back to the refugee community in return for the chance to be with them and witness their daily lives.

"When I was coming here, I wanted to bring something with me to give to the refugees, to feel better myself. I thought that if I brought colouring pencils and paints, I would give the children something useful and, at the same time, learn about their feelings and their lives here. It could also help them forget the war and the things they saw in Syria," he said.

One of the children, 13-year-old Lilav, drew a street scene from her neighbourhood in Damascus. "The thing I miss most is school and my friends in Syria," she said. Zadine, also 13, drew a petrol station near his home in Hassakeh, north-eastern Syria. "I miss my country very much," he said. "When I grow up, I would like to be an engineer."

Simon Ravelli, who manages Kawergosk camp for UNHCR implementing partner, ACTED, welcomed the initiative. "It gives a voice to the refugees living in a difficult context far from their homes. It is also a way for the children to get access through the workshop to different experiences, get new artistic skills and express themselves."

More than 1.1 million Syrian children are now refugees. A major new report released recently by UNHCR documents how Syrian refugee children are suffering from profound psychological distress, loneliness and trauma as a result of their experiences. The report, "The Future of Syria Refugee Children in Crisis," covers refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. It details the fracturing of families, with more than 70,000 Syrian refugee families living without fathers, and over 3,700 refugee children unaccompanied or separated from both parents.

Kawergosk camp provides shelter to more than 13,000 Syrian refugees. It was set up last August, along with five other camps, in the wake of a large influx from Syria into the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

By William Spindler in Erbil, Iraq

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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