Page last updated at 23:39 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 00:39 UK

Exhibition to show refugee crisis

By Billy Briggs
Freelance Journalist

Damascus (Picture courtesy of Angela Catlin)
Many of the 1.5 million refugees in Syria live in the capital, Damascus
Much attention has been given to the conflict in Iraq over the past five years, but much less to the resulting humanitarian crisis and the 4.7 million refugees who have fled their homes.

Around half of the displaced remain in Iraq, while more than two million have crossed borders into Syria and Jordan, many struggling to survive in increasingly desperate conditions.

For Refugee Week Scotland 2008, I visited Damascus in Syria with photographer Angela Catlin to meet Iraqi refugees and to document the effect of the conflict on their lives for a photography exhibition to be held in Glasgow.

Soaring global food and fuel prices - the former up 83% in the past three years, according to the World Bank - are exacerbating a dire situation as refugees are running out of savings.

There are 1.5 million refugees in Syria, mostly in Damascus, and staff at refugee agency UNHCR's registration centre in the city told us they process up to 130 new families each day.

In April, UNHCR fed 150,000 refugees daily in Damascus, compared with 33,000 people last September.

Clowns Without Borders (picture courtesy of Angela Catlin)

We also interviewed Iraqis who have come to Scotland for safety in recent years.

The Scottish Refugee Council estimates there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Iraqis in Scotland, of which around 1,000 are refugees.

The number of Iraqi asylum seekers in Glasgow at the beginning of March was 372, the second largest group of asylum seekers after Iranians.

We met with one family seeking asylum in Glasgow whose story was quite remarkable.

Hussein Yousef and his wife, Maida, came to Scotland in May 2002, after his brother, Kasim, walked out on a job at Saddam Hussein's palace in Baghdad.

Fellow employees had been hanged or shot for making the simplest of errors so Kasim left and went into exile.

But his desertion meant the lives of his family were also under threat so Hussein left Iraq for Britain.

Unending violence

He had hoped to return to his homeland after the US-led invasion in 2003 brought down Saddam Hussein's regime, but the unending violence in Iraq has prevented this.

As a result of the ongoing sectarian violence Hussein has relatives living as refugees in Malmo, London, Baghdad, and also in Damascus where we met Nashwan, whose sister is married to Hussein's brother.

Naswan and his wife, Roula, arrived in Damascus eight months ago after their son, Moyad, was kidnapped and murdered by a militia called Islamic Jihad in Baghdad on 22 March, 2007.

Moyad was targeted for the simple reason he was a Shiah Muslim.

(Names have been changed to protect identities)

Life After Iraq, a photography exhibition of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Scotland, is at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow from 13 June - 26 October, 2008.

In pictures: Refugee crisis
12 Jun 08 |  In Pictures
Sleepout focus on asylum plight
11 Jun 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
The Iraqi refugee view from Syria
20 Mar 08 |  Middle East
Iraqi asylum seeker numbers jump
18 Mar 08 |  Middle East
Exiled Iraqi clowns cheer refugees
21 Feb 08 |  Middle East

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