SIDON, Lebanon: Hamdi Darwiche wrapped his tent with plastic in preparation for the coming rains. It will be the fourth consecutive winter he spends in the shelter near Marjayoun, in Lebanon’s south.
Abdullah Hassoun said he praised God that his application for asylum in Europe was rejected by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. He said those who made it to Europe were living tough lives in tents as well.
Hassoun said he wished to go back to Aleppo “even if I have to live in the dirt.”
Five years after the onset of the war in Syria, Lebanon continues to endure the largest refugee crisis in its history.
Economic, security, social, health care, humanitarian and education disasters have piled up, one after another. Every area in Lebanon has been affected by the influx of refugees, especially those near the Syrian border, which have borne the heaviest burden.
This influx has exacerbated underlying conditions in a country that was already witnessing social and economic problems prior to the Syrian conflict.
In addition to hosting vast numbers of refugees, Lebanon has also had to deal with the resulting political and security turmoil.
UNHCR has registered some 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, however the Lebanese government estimates the total figure to be closer to 1.5 million.
As refugees try to economically and socially integrate into society, the competition for jobs has increased, resulting in low wages for manual labor and complaints that Syrians are willing to work for minimal wages.
Another effect of the crisis has been the increased demand for water and electricity, whose supplies already suffered from administrative and structural issues.
Syrian refugee Jalila Chehab, a saleswoman at a clothing store in Sidon, said she understood the concerns of the Lebanese.
“But what can we do as a family of six in the tough situation we are in?” she said.
Lebanese national Afif Fawaz said that all construction sites were being worked by Syrians.
“We watch. I am not against the Syrian workers, but ultimately this is my land, what can I do?” he asked.
During the first three years of the Syria crisis, Arab countries and international powers helped with programs and initiatives.
But over the last two years, visits by regional and international leaders to areas occupied by refugees have decreased significantly.
Financial, social, health care and education programs have decreased due to a lack of support, and schools that were strictly for refugees have been forced to shut as a result of the funding shortages.
In the last two years, UNHCR has decreased the monthly allowance for refugee families by 50 percent – from $32 to just $16.
Kamel Kozber, head of the Union for Relief Associations in the South, said that health care assistance was down 80 percent due to the decline in support from Arab nations and international powers.
“Visits by officials have decreased because international focus has shifted to other issues and areas in the world,” he said.
As Syrian refugees prepare for their fifth winter in Lebanon, officials who were previously concerned with refugees now turn a blind eye.
Many refugees understand the position of the Lebanese government.
“[Lebanon] has enough problems already and they are welcoming us,” Marwa Khaled said.
The refugees blamed the United Nations and world powers for the decline in aid.
They called on them to put an end to the war in Syria so that refugees could return to their homeland and begin living a normal life.
Source & Link : The Daily Star