Screen grab of snow covered Yayladağı 2, one of six camps in southern Turkey for Syrian refugees.
Parts of Turkey’s south were hit by an unusual amount of snowfall over the weekend, wreaking havoc on refugee camps set up in the region to shelter those displaced by Syria’s deadly, 10-month-long crisis. Although the Turkish Red Crescent claims things are once again running smoothly, our Observer in the camps says otherwise.

Turkey has played a crucial role in sheltering tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled their country since a fierce crackdown on anti-government protests began on March 15. According to the Turkish Red Crescent, the country currently hosts more than 9,450 Syrian “guests” in six camps located in Turkey’s southern Hatay province, which shares a border with Syria.

Following a bout of heavy snowfall, camp inhabitants awoke early Sunday morning to discover there was no power for heating and not enough blankets to ward of the bitter January cold. In a bid to call attention to their ordeal, videos of tents buried in snow and groups of refugees huddled around small fires were quickly posted on social networking websites.
Overview of Yayladağı 2, one of six camps in southern Turkey for Syrian refugees. The cameraperson explains that there is no water or electricity, and alleges that electronic devices have been confiscated to ensure the refugees don’t have a way to communicate with the outside world about the poor living conditions in the camp.
Video tour of the Reyhanli refugee camp in Turkey.
Although Turkey’s government is in charge of running the camps, the Turkish Red Crescent is responsible for providing basic services such as food to its inhabitants. In contrast with the dire circumstances described in the above videos, the Red Crescent’s international programmes unit told FRANCE 24 that the camps were only without electricity for two or three hours on Sunday before generators were up and running. The also said that blankets had been distributed to those in need.

“We’ve asked the Turkish Red Crescent for things like blankets, but they always tell us they don’t have any”

Mohammed is a Syrian refugee. He and his family currently live in a tent in Yayladağı 2, a camp in Turkey’s southern Hatay province.
My family and I were finally forced to leave our home and cross the border into Turkey five months ago. Fighting between the security forces and the Free Syrian Army had got so bad where we were living, it wasn’t safe to stay.

Winter in the refugee camp has been hard. It’s been freezing cold, and on Sunday, there was a blanket of snow around 40 – 60 cm high on the ground.

The weather makes our living conditions difficult, to say the least. The tents are made out of non-water resistant cloth, so they’re constantly soaked through. Water drips from walls and from the ceiling. To make matters worse, we’ve had no electricity since before dawn on Sunday, so it’s impossible to keep warm. Apparently the electricity was cut because it has been snowing so much lately. We’ve asked the Turkish Red Crescent for things like blankets, but they always tell us they don’t have any.

In general, the Turkish Red Crescent has been very helpful. They distribute things like sugar, tea and milk. They also make sure that the sick receive medical care. They have even gone so far as to shuttle people from one camp to another so they can visit family or loved ones. When it comes to getting blankets or other things to help keep us warm, however, it’s difficult. We don’t have very many options without electricity – we can’t build fires in our tents because it’s a hazard, so we have to cope with the cold”.