Attention has been drawn again to the plight of children in refugee camps by the death of Shamima Begum’s three-week old baby in a Syrian refugee camp.

While former Isis bride Begum has divided opinion, both ends of the political spectrum have been united in their horror at the death of her innocent baby in the al-Roj camp. Conditions in the camp are widely known to be inhumane and infant mortality rates are high. The baby, Jarrah, who died from pneumonia, was buried with two other children who had died in a fire.

Hotel Zaatari, at the Sewell Centre Gallery at Radley College, tells an all too familiar 21st century story. The UN Refugee Agency reported that there were 660,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan in May 2017, constituting nine per cent of the population.

The Middle East and North African region continues to pose overwhelming challenges, with multiple and complex emergency situations.

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The situation in Syria remains volatile. After more than six years of conflict, there are over five million Syrian refugees in the region and counting. Elsewhere, violence and instability in countries such as Iraq and Yemen is triggering new waves of displacement. Millions of families have been and continue to be driven from their homes.

Photographers Anthony Dawton and Jim McFarlane were invited to spend nine days in the Zaatari Camp in Jordan in 2013 by Save the Children. They discovered a desperate place sheltering fractured families and scarred individuals all seeking refuge from one of the world’s most intractable conflicts.

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They were particularly struck by one thing, however, that there is still hope to be seen in the faces of the children but if no one sees them and no one hears them, then a terrible future is set to be born.

The exhibition of the photographs taken by Dawton and McFarlane is Hotel Zaatari named in honour of the desperate irony that the camp is a ‘hotel’, a temporary home, but one which no one ever checks out of. Each image and voice in this body of work seeks to give the subject recognition and a sense of worth. It seeks to tell the world this story of fear, fleeting hope and ambition for a better future.

The images are powerful and complex. Nowhere Boy depicts a young man gazing into the horizon with a pack on his back. But he is going nowhere – his horizon ends at a row of tents.

High Noon at Hotel Zaatari shows a youth with his head in his hands, eyes covered. It is as if he perceives his future too searing and blinding for us to know or even contemplate. In It Was There a young girl stands looking lost – she once had something, but now it’s gone.

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The dire living conditions in the camp are plain to see. Mothers sit in ramshackle tents, the home to their family, the paraphernalia of how they eat and survive stacked up on one side. Here only the mother guarding this home provides, in her dignity, proof of human concern.

In the backdrop to the haunting image Mother and Child, we see the apocalyptical nature of the landscape of Zaatari, or the hell of having to live there. Dawton asks: “Does the landscape resemble our devastated earth in a chilling future?”

This nihilism is summed up by The Scream where a boy emits the demons tormenting him within and without.

  • Hotel Zaatari by Anthony Dawton and Jim McFarlane and filmed by Mais Salman and Zaid Baqaeen is at the Sewell Centre Gallery, Radley College until March 29. Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm.
  • All pictures are for sale with 40 per cent of proceeds going directly to Save the Children’s work at the Zaatari Camp.

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