NYHQ2015-3194

On 11 December 2015, girls play with dolls at the refugee shelter at Templehof Airfield in Berlin. (Left-right) sisters Isree, 10, and Ilaf, 12, from Hassaka, Syria with friends Helen, 10, from Qaamishle, Syria; and Noor, 10, from Idlib, Syria. Templehof Airfield is a former airport dating back to the 1920s, and was used during the Berlin Airlift in 1948. The hangers are today are housing 2,000 refugees, and while designed for transiting within two weeks, many families living there have been there since the shelter opened 6 weeks ago. Authorities, NGOs and staff working for a private company running the facility are doing the best they can to make the situation more bearable under quite difficult circumstances. The shelter started operating with two days notice before the first refugees arrived. There are activities for children and they are being scaled up in cooperation with NGOs Save the Children and Together.

“We don’t understand the language, and we don’t know when we’re getting out of there.” said Helen, “It’s really boring. And at night, it gets really cold. We can’t go to the toilets at night, because they’re outside and it’s freezing cold.” Until showers are finished being built on the premises, the residents of Templehof are bussed to nearby public pools once a week to shower. “The showers are communal and we only have ten minutes to wash,” said Helen, “I’m scared the bus taking us back to the camp is going to leave. That happened once and we were stranded […] We heard a kid was kidnapped and had his throat cut with a knife,” she continued, “So we are very afraid. They’re just rumours, but we hear a lot of stories about violence, of people being killed […] One of the good things here are the German classes, and some days circus performers come. They said that they would take us out to a real circus soon. […] There is a place for kids, but it’s been closed for a couple of days now because they’re refurnishing it. They’re bringing new toys. It’s v