Category: Refugee camps


Reporting from Denmark-

The ghastly figures of the bloodied and removed-fingernails children who started the Syrian revolution hung over the frozen eyes of Mohammad S.’s three kids. The children’s “crime” of casting the famous spell of the Arab Spring “The people want to bring down the regime” on their school’s wall haunted the three kids’ minds defining for them what freedom of expression means.

“I couldn’t stand the fact that my wife and kids are in Hama and I’m in Beirut, so I asked them to come to Beirut,” says Mohammad S. who had been working in Beirut in cleaning the stores. He adds, “The situation is very difficult there. The killings start after 6 p.m. No one is allowed to walk on the streets after that time.” “They (his family) came and lived with me for a month, but I couldn’t afford their expenses so I sent them back.” When asked if he sought aid from charity organizations, he said that most of the aid organizations are situated in the north of Lebanon and he didn’t receive any help.

Not Enough Aids for 5,000 Syrian Refugees

Refugees aren’t facing only the bleak fact that there is no enough aid for them; some are actually being hunted down after crossing into Lebanon and other neighboring countries and are attacked by the Syrian forces. Ali al-Khatib was killed on Thursday when the Syrian army vehicles crossed the border near Saaba, in the Bekaa region in Lebanon and attacked farmers and their houses. On Monday, a similar event happened during the escape of some Lattakia residents to Turkey via Al-Hamboushiyeh. The security forces fired at them, which resulted in the death of a young man, Haytham Asfar, and two other people being injured. In other situations, kidnappings of refugees have taken place where the kidnapped Syrians were handed over to the Shabiha gangs and the Shabiha handed them over to the Syrian security forces, Mohammed Kizle, a refugee from Homs near the Lebanese border town of Wadi Khaled told Al-Arabiya.

Abdallah Dabbousi, the head of the emergency and relief committee at the Islamic Medical Association in the north of Lebanon decries the shortage of funds,” The amount of aid is negligible. There are 5,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon right now. They have been here from around 7 months, so it’s not that easy to secure their basic needs for a long-period of time.” Rabih Dandachli, the President of the Muslim Student Association that lead one of the most prominent campaigns for collecting donations for the Syrian refugees in the north of Lebanon, says that they are left with less than $4,000 from the $35,000 collected donations. Dabbousi says in this regard, “We have a mobile clinic, a doctor, a nurse, and medicine. We had done so far 30 medical surgeries for which one had cost $17,000 and another had cost $12,000. We distributed 500 sleeping bags and 800 nutritional food units. But we are running of funds.”

Syrian refugees have been relying on support from the Lebanese government’s High Relief Commission (HRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), NGOs and the local community for several months since fleeing the fighting in nearby Syrian towns.

 

A Syrian refugee child looks out a window in Wadi Khaled, Lebanon's impoverished mountain area near its northern border with Syria, on September 21, 2011. (AFP Photo/Anwar Amro)

 

The Lebanese government not admitting the existence of a real crisis

“We have limited potentials. The Lebanese government’s role in providing help for the refugees is not crucial. There are 25 charity organizations involved though. It’s related to the political situation in Lebanon where the government currently supports the Syrian regime,” Dabbousi says.

Dandachli agrees with Dabbousi on this issue, “When the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that the number of displaced Syrians in Lebanon reported by the media is inflated and denies the existence of the crisis, this means that the Lebanese government doesn’t have the will to help these refugees.  The Lebanese government’s role is bad. It’s even part of the current problem.” However, the Lebanese Prime Minister Nagib Mikati said on Thursday that Lebanon is committed to protect Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “My approach to these refugees coming to Lebanon is purely humanitarian. We are assisting these people … providing them with medical assistance, schooling and shelter.” Miqati told Agence France Presse. Regarding the schooling of the children of the Syrian refugees, Dabbousi acknowledges the government’s role in offering them free schooling at public schools.

What’s more ironical is that the media affiliated with the Syrian government and its allies consider the fleeing Syrian refugees as regular visitors paying visits to their families on the Lebanese border. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Y9cSlfhqk)   

 A Cow-Slaughterhouse to accommodate Syrian refugees in Lebanon

The main problems at the moment lie in the housing and the medication of the refugees. “Currently, approximately 15 family members live in a small one-room apartment. Others who don’t have relatives in Lebanon to stay at their houses and who can’t afford the rent reside at regular shops or schools. One of our projects we are working on is building a refugee camp in North Lebanon,” Dabbousi says. He explains that the local community and NGOs found an abandoned cows’ slaughterhouse to which they hope to turn into a refugee camp after renovating it and making it suitable for living.

Amid the hostility of Russia and China towards the Syrians where they pushed the UN Security Council to reject imposing sanctions on Assad’s regime via their veto, the Syrian spring seems will blossom more blood. Syria’s spring seems also to witness more cultivation of thorny warnings where the first one came on Sunday announcing that the Syrian authority will retaliate against any country that formally recognizes the National Council set up by opponents of Assad.

This gloomy spring drove and is still driving many Syrians to seek haven in the already impoverished area in Akkar, north Lebanon and other neighboring areas permanently or temporarily as with Mohammad’s family.

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It’s great seeing all these online petitions asking for fast internet and declaring that internet should be a HUMAN RIGHT for every Lebanese, but it becomes a bit ironic seeing all these people living within the Lebanese territories struggling to achieve the very most basic human rights from food, shelter, medicine, and proper living…

I volunteered to visit the Shatila camp in Beirut, to meet some of the families in their homes, and to learn about their dire conditions. This event was organized by Insight club at AUB.

Trying to make our way through the camp’s maze and to avoid the dangled combination of electric wires and water pipes, we grabbed tightly our hearts in one hand and our cameras in the other and entered the families’ dimly lighted homes.

The sad grimaces on the faces of the eight children welcomed us in the two-room house. We noticed that they don’t attend school. The mother explained that she can’t afford the schooling costs although the “UNRWA provides primary education for the population of officially registered camps whereas secondary education was never considered to be within UNRWA’s temporary mandate.” (http://prrn.mcgill.ca/research/papers/abuhabib.htm )   She sells candies with her eldest daughter at the streets in order to afford medication for her mother who is seriously ill.

http://youtu.be/9MYhP_OEy2Q 

This woman ,featured in the video (link above), suffers from osteoporosis, urinary problems, glaucoma, and depression. She explained that she had a medical prescription, but she is postponing buying the medicine till next Ramadan hoping that some charity could help her afford it. She doesn’t have anyone to support her financially. Her depression, as she told us, became severe especially that she doesn’t have electricity in her house and when it is dark she goes down to the street to avoid darkness… and maybe the darkness of her life.

Among the constraining conditions Palestinians suffer in Lebanon is that they can’t own property, they can’t work in every profession and they aren’t eligible for social security. According to the Palestinian Najdeh Foundation, “unemployment rates are at about 60 percent of the total population and only 7 percent of working Palestinians have fixed contracts, 90 percent of which are with UNRWA [the UN Relief and Works Agency]. The rest are essentially employed on the black market.” (http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=193163 ) The volunteer guide from the Palestine Red Crescent Society explained that it is illegal for Palestinians to practice medicine in Lebanon so they either end up traveling or working “illegally”. The main aspiration for most Palestinian youths wanting to go to university, or for those who have completed it, is to emigrate which is becoming more difficult with the increasingly xenophobic immigration laws.

Shatila camp had suffered brutal massacres and is still is today with the drastic humanitarian conditions. On 16 September 1982, under the watchful eye of their Israeli allies who had encircled the area, Lebanese militiamen (preferably not to mention who) started a three-day slaughter battle that left innocent civilians dead.

Looking at the names of the martyrs in Shatila camp

The 95-year-old woman reminiscing on her abject escape from Palestine during the 1948 Nakba

After we finished our visits, we engaged in focus group discussions. We agreed to work on awareness campaigns within the camps and tutoring sessions including extra-curricular activities for youth along with other activities and long-term projects.

Little Maryam's smile: a mixture of pain and joy

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