After being flooded with Syrian refugees over the past years, reports indicate that the number of refugees in south Lebanon’s Sidon has dropped, with many opting to migrate to Europe. Sources from international relief organizations said that NGOs operating there have decided to cross off the name of every Syrian refugee family member that no longer communicates with them.
The organizations have crossed off more than 3,000 names since last month, according to sources. From a height of 46,000 people, the number registered in the Sidon area – including the suburbs of Wadi al-Zineh, Rmaileh, and Zahrani – has fallen to less than 43,000.
Many Syrians sought refuge in Lebanon from their country’s nearly 5-year-old civil war, which sees no end in sight.
But reports from the Union of Relief and Developmental Institutions indicate that many Syrian refugee families have left Lebanon.
The statistics from the Sidon area and its camps show that the number of Syrian refugee families is now 5,627, or 32,531 people in total, with an additional 1,533 Palestinian Syrian families numbering 6,480 people.
These numbers suggest that some 800 families have left the country, comprising of 3,200 people. Ninety percent of them left for Europe, with the remaining 10 percent returning to Syria. It is unclear, however, whether members of this group stayed in Syria or headed to Europe through Turkey.
The reports suggested that the percentage of Syrian refugees who live in apartments and residential buildings in Sidon and pay rent surpasses 98 percent, with less than 2 percent living in free complexes.
They also indicated that there has been a huge decrease in the health services provided by the UNHCR, which has increased the burden on refugees. The reports highlighted the high costs of hospitalization and medical services in Lebanon.
Although free education for refugees has been provided by the Lebanese government, the reports explained that there is also a need to provide them with transportation.
They concluded that after more than four years of the Syrian refugee presence in Sidon and its suburbs, families have largely been able to find ways to support themselves. This is a result of the various empowerment projects that have targeted them, as well as their ability to compete with local labor in different fields.
Palestinian refugees from Syria have also been looking to migrate, as they survive in particularly tough conditions in Lebanon. Many reside in Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the country.
Local organizations who work with Palestinian refugees have yet to carry out surveys on how many have remained in Ain al-Hilweh since emigration to Europe began to take off, but sources have said that the number of Palestinian Syrian refugees in the camp has dropped by almost half.