Haunting Photos Show Where Refugee Children Are Forced To Sleep

Imagine waking up in the morning without knowing where you will lay your head that night. That's now the fate of millions of children around the world whose families have been swept from their homes by civil war and violence. Of the world's 19.5 million refugees, more than half are kids, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman has been traveling through Europe and the Middle East documenting what has become the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Sadly, for those who have already fled to safety, conditions could soon get even worse. Events as disparate as the recent attacks on Paris, which have caused European nations and some U.S. states to reconsider their willingness to take in refugees, and the arrival of winter, with its freezing temperatures, could have disastrous consequences for people now forced to take shelter, sometimes on any patch of ground they can find. Aid groups say there is real concern that many people could freeze to death if nothing is done.

Wennman told Refinery29 that capturing photographs of Syrian children in their makeshift beds — in fields, hospitals, and city squares — has been a particularly eye-opening experience for him.

"I felt this project was more personal for me than others, perhaps because I have a 5-year-old son and I know how important it is for him to feel safe every night when I put him to bed," Wennman said. "The children are the most innocent victims of this conflict. They did not choose to leave their homes. Many of the children have told me that they especially remember the sounds of the bombings."

Above all, they face a world of uncertainty. "No one knows if or when the conflict will end and what country Syria will be. Some of these children will start their lives in new countries and can, and will, probably have a great future. Others will be stuck in refugee camps in the neighboring countries," says Wennman. "Many will probably never return back to Syria."

Click through for the powerful photos and stories of these refugee children. All photo captions were written by Magnus Wennman.

Refinery29 has also partnered with USA for UNHCR to support refugees around the world. You can make a difference with your donation here: UNrefugees.org/Refinery29.

Photo caption: Iman, 2, lies in a hospital bed in Azraq, Jordan. Iman has pneumonia and a chest infection. This is her third day in this hospital. "She sleeps most of the time now. Normally, she's a happy little girl, but now she's tired. She runs everywhere when she's well. She loves playing in the sand," says her mother, Olah, 19.

Refinery29 is committed to telling the human story behind the headlines of the Syrian refugee crisis. To read the story of three Syrian women forced to flee violence and civil war, and how they have rebuilt their lives in Turkey, read "Daughters of Paradise" here. For full coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis, read more here.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Shehd, 7
Sleeping on the ground in Hungary

Shehd loves to draw, but more recently all of her drawings have had the same theme: weapons. "She saw them all the time, they are everywhere," explains her mother while the little girl sleeps on the ground alongside Hungary's closed border.

Now, she does not draw at all. The family brought neither paper nor crayons with them on their flight. Shehd does not play anymore, either. The family has had difficulty finding food during their wanderings. Some days, they have had to make do with the apples they were able to pick from trees along the road. If the family had known how hard the journey would be, they would have chosen to risk their lives in Syria.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Fatima, 9
Norberg, Sweden

Every night, Fatima dreams that she's falling from a ship. Together with her mother, Malaki, and her two siblings, Fatima fled from the city of Idlib when the Syrian national army slaughtered civilians in the city. After two years in a refugee camp in Lebanon, the situation became unbearable, and they made it to Libya, where they boarded an overcrowded boat. On the deck of the boat, a very pregnant woman gave birth to her baby after 12 hours in the scorching sun. The baby was stillborn and was thrown overboard. Fatima saw everything. When the refugee's boat started to take on water, they were picked up by the Italian coast guard.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Lamar, 5
Sleeping on the ground in Horgos, Serbia

Back home in Baghdad, the dolls, the toy train, and the ball are left; Lamar often talks about these items when home is mentioned. The bomb changed everything. The family was on its way to buy food when a bomb was dropped close to its house. It was not possible to live there anymore, says Lamar's grandmother, Sara. After two attempts to cross the sea from Turkey in a small rubber boat, Lamar's family succeeded in coming to Hungary's closed border. Now Lamar sleeps on a blanket in the forest — scared, frozen, and sad.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Amir, 20 months
Sleeping in a refugee camp in Zahle, Lebanon

Amir was born a refugee. His mother believes her son was traumatized in the womb. "Amir has never spoken a single word," says his mother, Shahana, 32. In the plastic tent where the family now lives, Amir has no toys, but he plays with whatever he can find on the ground. "He laughs a lot, even though he doesn't talk," Shahana says.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Moyad, 5

Moyad and his mother needed to buy flour to make a spinach pie. Hand in hand, they were on their way to the market. They walked past a taxi in which someone had placed a bomb. Moyad's mother died instantly. Moyad, who has been airlifted to Jordan, has shrapnel lodged in his head, back and pelvis.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Walaa, 5
Dar-El-Las, Lebanon

Walaa, 5, wants to go home. She had her own room in Aleppo, she tells us. There, she never used to cry at bedtime. Here, in the refugee camp, she cries every night. Resting her head on the pillow is horrible, she says, because nighttime is horrible. That was when the attacks happened. By day, Walaa's mother often builds a little house out of pillows, to teach her that they are nothing to be afraid of.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Tamam, 5
Azraq, Jordan

Five-year-old Tamam is scared of her pillow. She cries every night at bedtime. The air raids on her hometown of Homs usually took place at night, and although she has been sleeping away from home for nearly two years now, she still doesn't realize that her pillow is not the source of danger.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Sham, 1
Horgos, Serbia

In the very front, just alongside the border between Serbia and Hungary by the four-meter-high iron gate, Sham is lying in his mother's arms. Just a few inches behind them is the Europe they so desperately are trying to reach. Only one day before the last refugees were allowed through and taken by train to Austria, Sham and his mother arrived too late. Now, they wait along with thousands of other refugees outside the closed Hungarian border.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Shiraz, 9
In a refugee camp in Suruc, Turkey

Shiraz, 9, was 3 months old when she was stricken with a severe fever. The doctor diagnosed it as polio and advised her parents to not spend too much money on medicine for a girl who didn't have a chance. Then the war came. Her mother, Leila, starts crying when she describes how she wrapped Shiraz in a blanket and carried her over the border from Kobane, Syria, to Turkey. Shiraz, who can't talk, received a wooden cradle in the refugee camp. She lies there, day and night.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Ralia, 7, and Rahaf, 13
Sleeping on the street in Beirut

Ralia, 7, and Rahaf, 13, live on the streets of Beirut. They are from Damascus, where a grenade killed their mother and brother. Along with their father, they have been sleeping rough for a year. They huddle close together on their cardboard boxes. Rahaf says she is scared of "bad boys," at which Ralia starts crying.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Mohammed, 13

Mohammed loves houses. Back home in Aleppo, Syria, he used to enjoy walking around the city looking at them. Now, many of his favorite buildings are gone, blown to pieces. Lying in his hospital bed, he wonders whether he will ever fulfill his dream of becoming an architect. "The strangest thing about war is that you get used to feeling scared. I wouldn't have believed that," says Mohammed.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Sleeping near the Hungarian border

Mahdi is 1-1/2 years old. He has experienced only war and flight. He sleeps deeply despite the hundreds of refugees climbing around him. They are protesting against not being able to travel further through Hungary. On the other side of the border, hundreds of police are standing guard. They have orders from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to protect the border at every cost. The situation is becoming more desperate, and the day after this photo was taken, the police began using tear gas and water cannons on refugees there.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Maram, 8
Amman, Jordan

Maram had just come home from school when the rocket hit her house. A piece of the roof landed right on top of her. Her mother took her to a field hospital, and from there she was airlifted across the border to Jordan. Head trauma caused a brain hemorrhage. For the first 11 days, Maram was in a coma. She is now conscious but has a broken jaw and can’t speak.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Gulistan, 6
Sleeping in Suruc, Turkey

There's a difference between closing your eyes and sleeping, as 6-year-old Gulistan knows. She prefers to shut her lids and just pretend, because every time she really falls asleep, the nightmares start. "I don't want to sleep here. I want to sleep at home," she says. She misses the pillow she had in Kobane. Sometimes, she lies against her mother and uses her as a pillow.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Abdul Karim Addo, 17
Sleeping in Omonoia Square in Athens, Greece

Abdul Karim has no money left. He bought a ferry ticket to Athens with his last euros. Now, he spends the night in Omonoia Square, where hundreds of refugees are arriving every day. Here, smugglers are making big money arranging false passports as well as bus and plane tickets to people in flight. But Abdul Karim is not going anywhere. He is able to borrow a telephone and call home to his mother in Syria, but he is not able to tell her how bad things are.

"She cries and is scared for my sake, and I don't want to worry her more," he says. He unfolds his blanket in the middle of the square and curls up in a fetal position. "I dream of two things: to sleep in a bed again and to hug my younger sister."
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Fara, 2
Azraq, Jordan

Fara loves soccer. Her dad tries to make balls for her by crumpling up anything he can find, but they don't last long. Every night, he says good night to Fara and her big sister, Tisam, 9, in the hope that tomorrow he will be able to bring them a proper ball to play with. All other dreams seem to be beyond his reach, but he is not giving up on this one.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Juliana, 2
Sleeping on the ground in Horgos, Serbia

It is 93 degrees. The flies crawl on Juliana's face and she shifts uneasily in her sleep. Juliana's family has been walking through Serbia for two days. This is the latest phase of their journey, which started three months ago.

The girl's mother lays her thin shawl over her daughter on the ground. Fatima calms down. A few meters away from their resting place, feet are tramping by in a never-ending flow of people. It is the end of August, and Hungary is about to barricade itself with barbed wire to shut out this stream of refugees. But for a few more days, it is possible to pass through the border city of Horgos. As soon as evening comes, Juliana's family will try to cross.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Ahmad, 7
Sleeping on the ground in Horgos, Hungary

Even sleep is not a free zone; it is then that the terror replays. Ahmad was home when the bomb hit his family's house in Idlib, Syria. Shrapnel hit him in the head, but he survived. His younger brother did not. The family had lived with war as their nearest neighbor for several years, but without a home they had no choice and were forced to flee.

Now, Ahmad lays among thousands of other refugees on the asphalt along the highway leading to Hungary's closed border. This is day 16 of their flight. The family has slept in bus shelters, on the road, and in the forest, explains Ahmad's father.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Esra, 11, Esma, 8, and Sidra, 6
Asleep in Majdal Anjar, Lebanon

When Selam, 37, puts Esra, 11, Esma, 8, and Sidra, 6, to bed, she takes comfort from the knowledge that her children are safe and won't come under attack during the night. What saddens her is the fact that they constantly dream about their father, who disappeared after being abducted, and wake up distraught. "I often dream that Daddy is bringing me candy," says Sidra.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Ahmed, 6
Sleeping on the ground in Horgos, Serbia

It is after midnight when Ahmed falls asleep in the grass. The adults are still sitting around, formulating plans for how they are going to get out of Hungary without registering themselves with the authorities. Ahmed is 6 years old and carries his own bag over the long stretches that his family walks by foot. "He is brave and only cries sometimes in the evenings," says his uncle, who has taken care of Ahmed after the boy's father was killed in their hometown of Deir ez-Zor in northern Syria.
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Photographed by: Magnus Wennman.
Abdullah, 5
Sleeping outside a railway station in Belgrade, Serbia

Abdullah has a blood disease. For the past two days, he has been sleeping outside the central station in Belgrade. He saw the killing of his sister in their home in Daraa, Syria. He is still in shock and has nightmares every night, says his mother. Abdullah is tired and is not healthy, but his mother does not have any money to buy medicine for him.