The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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September 27, 2015

The Daily Star - Syrian refugees in Sidon face eviction order, September 27, 2015

Mohammed Zaatari

Around 170 Syrian refugee families living in Sidon’s Ouzai complex are being threatened with secondary displacement as the deadline of an order forcibly evicting them from the area they have called home for nearly four years fast approaches. The families living in the complex are expected to leave the complex by Oct. 1, after the owners of the complex, located in Sidon’s northern entrance, demanded that the space be returned to them so they could continue building a planned university institute. As the deadline to leave looms, the families are faced with the horror of living on the streets.
The families spent Eid al-Adha in anxious anticipation of what the next week would hold. No joy was felt among the 400 children living in the complex.
A school that had been established in the complex to provide instruction to over 200 Syrian refugee students was also closed to make room for growing refugee families.
Residents of the two-building five-floor complex, meanwhile, are looking for answers. They believe they have been abandoned and don’t know who to turn to to negotiate with owners, or to provide their families with other housing alternatives.
“We had previously asked for an alternative to this complex and we said we were ready to leave if one was made available,” said Walid Abu Hafez, a refugee living in Ouzai, speaking as a spokesperson for the refugee families. He blamed the UNHCR, mandated to provide relief to Syrian refugees, for not providing them with adequate living quarters.
“When will we cease to live from one tragic displacement to another?” he asked. Abu Hafez explained that most refugees living in the complex had arrived there in 2012, fleeing the war that broke out in their country in 2011. He said many families were from rural Hama, Idlib, Deir al-Zor and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk located on the outskirts of Damascus.
“There are families that have left the complex, but they are not able to rent a house so they were forced to find a way into Turkey, where there are better managed refugee camps,” Abu Hafez said, urging those with the ability to help to do so.
Lebanon has been burdened with a huge influx of 1.2 million registered refugees as the war in neighboring Syria continues. The Ouzai complex is the largest center hosting Syrians in Sidon.
In a bid to curb the number of Syrian refugees crossing into Lebanon, the country also began issuing visa-like permits to Syrians at the start of the year, a decision made by the Interior Ministry and General Security.
Although Sidon plays host to thousands of Syrian refugees, no major tension has been reported between them and residents of the city.
Other locations where Syrian refugees are staying in large numbers have seen repeated security incidents and frayed relations with residents, particularly in the northeastern town of Arsal, which hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.
A playground in the Ouzai complex still stands.
It was established with money from the French government. France has shown interest in the families living in the complex and was following up on their situation through the NGO Première Urgence-Aide Médicale Internationale.
However, families say the relief provided by this organization has also decreased.
Sources familiar with the situation said the issue of evictions required international and domestic follow up, especially when identifying alternative living arrangements for refugees. One option might be to distribute the Ouzai refugees in existing gatherings in Zahrani and some other areas in south Lebanon.
But the families in the complex say they share a bond and won’t be divided easily. Most left together from nearby areas in Syria and have been neighbors in exile ever since. Their large numbers will also make distributing them elsewhere a challenge.
One option remains but is unlikely: negotiating with the owners of the complex to extend the families’ right to stay.

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