Established by Fathi Ibrahim Bayoud 2005 - Homs

Syrians in Lebanon seek new refugee destination amid economic hardships

Syrian Refugees | 2020-09-17 02:13:57
Syrians in Lebanon seek new refugee destination amid economic hardships
(Eqtsad)- “We fled death in Syria and now death haunts us here in Lebanon,” Mohamed Khoury said gravely, leaving Beirut, now, his greatest wish.

The 18-year-old shares a basement apartment with his family in Gemmayzeh district, Beirut. His previous home was destroyed in the port explosion, a fate that he shares with many people, both locals and refugees, who have been displaced because of the damages caused by the blast.

Mohamed, originally from a small village in northeastern Syria, escaped war and arrived in Lebanon when he was 14. When he reached the border after several days on the road, he was kidnapped by unknown elements who demanded to either “pay or die ''.

Living in constant fear

Mohamed has now lived in Beirut for four years without legal residence status and in constant fear of being detained or deported. In past years, local authorities have questioned and arrested him.

Mohamed Khoury is one of the estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which hosts the largest number of refugees in the world relative to its total population.

The situation, however, has been dire not only for the refugees but also its people, especially after the explosion in the capital in early August. Since the beginning of the economic meltdown in the fall of 2019, The Lebanese currency has tanked, businesses have been forced to close, and thousands of people lost their jobs.

With the rising poverty, and the ongoing protests against political and institutional corruption, Lebanon has been overlooking the living conditions of its refugees. 

Staying alive is the Biggest Challenge

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Lebanon has practically no resources to support refugees with 75% of refugees forced to live in extreme poverty. “The biggest challenge for refugees at the moment is simply to survive,” said Dalal Harb, spokesperson for the Agency in Beirut.

“If I stay in Lebanon, I will eventually die of hunger,” says Mohamed, “And if I go back to Syria, I risk arrest by the Syrian army.” He is looking for a new future beyond Lebanon and Syria, and has been planning for weeks to flee to Turkey.

However, to reach Turkey, he will have to cross Syrian territory. Many who risked it have disappeared on that route, “Some of my friends disappeared while fleeing, others did not. I hope to be among those who did not.”

I want to learn, not Beg

After the explosion in Beirut, Mohamed’s fears increased. He sustained some minor injuries , but lost his apartment and his job and now lives without no income.

He longs for a decent life and relatively average standard of life. “I am young,” he said. “I want to learn, not beg.” In Lebanon, he feels helpless and alone. According to the UNHCR, more than 200,000 refugees live in Beirut alone and that is why Mohamed is not the only one who is seeking to leave.

Ghassan al-Rabii and his family of six have been living in a one-room apartment in Beirut since 2013. Batul, 12, has diabetes and no future prospects in Syria, according to her father, where she lacked health care and safety and that is why they fled. Even in Lebanon, the family is not able to survive without assistance, receiving support from a Church organization in Italy.

A steadily increasing number of Syrian families are living below the poverty line. "The situation has deteriorated over the past year, and NGOs are having difficulties providing help to refugees,” Hani Alagba said.

 Suheir El-Ghali, a coordinator at the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs and a teacher at Lebanese University, talked about a “very stressful situation” for the displaced, who “no longer have a home and no one supports them.”

Hope for asylum in Europe

With the economic crisis, competition on the labor market has intensified. Syrian workers have often worked under inhumane conditions and are often subjected to discrimination and hostility. The relationship between the locals and the refugees worsened over time, even before the explosion. There had been animosity towards the al-Rabii family, who according to the father has been lucky as an Italian organization managed, with the help of a French partner organization, to get them visas for France.

Unlike Mohamed, who needs to save up for his escape to Turkey, the al-Rabii family is optimistic about a better future in Europe and currently learning French.

  (Translation by Zaman Al Wasl)

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