Middle East

Satellite Photos Show Rapid Growth Of Syrian Refugee Camps


Deir Hassan, Syria, is shown in February 2019 (left) and February 2020.

Deir Hassan, Syria, is shown in February 2019 (left) and February 2020.

Since Dec. 1, some 900,000 people have been uprooted by violence in Syria, according to the United Nations. Now, new satellite images give a sense of scale to that crisis.

Syrian troops and the Russian air force are attempting to retake the northwest province of Idlib, the last rebel-held province in Syria's ongoing civil war. NPR's Deb Amos reports the offensive has killed over a thousand civilians. Many others have sought shelter near the Turkish border, the U.N. says.

Photos collected by a commercial satellite company show the refugee camps that have popped up in and around three Syrian towns near the border. Maxar Technologies photographed Sarmada, Deir Hassan and Ad Dana in February 2019 and again this week. (Drag the white slider bar left and right to compare.)


The U.N. says the majority of those who have been displaced are women and children.

"They are traumatized and forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures because camps are full," U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said Monday. "Mothers burn plastic to keep children warm. Babies and small children are dying because of the cold."

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Deir Hassan

Lowcock called the violence "indiscriminate," with attacks on aid workers, hospitals, schools and mosques.

The conflict in Syria has been ongoing since March 2011 and has forced more than half of the population to leave their homes, the U.N. says.

Ad Dana

Turkey has taken in about 3.5 million refugees. But the country says it's at its limits.

The U.N.'s Lowcock is urging a cease-fire, saying it would be the only way to avert "the biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st Century."

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