Since a big influx in the mid 1970’s Lebanon has housed thousands of refugees, mainly of Palestinian descent. These people sought shelter after Israel eradicated them and since, many have still found themselves living as refugees in camps throughout Lebanon. The life for these people is usually tough, as the Lebanese government has made many strict rules governing their everyday lives. For instance, there are rules against owning property, obtaining certain jobs, forbidding them from Lebanese healthcare, and restrictions on leaving the camps. To sum it up, the lives of these refugees is extremely tough and not ideal for anyone seeking a new home away from violence.
Many Lebanese people find themselves divided on how they view these Palestinian refugees. This is in part due to the fragile nature of Lebanon’s secretarial balance. Religious sects play a major role in the country’s government, and a tipping of this power could have destructive consequences. Past incidences, such as outbreaks of violence in these Palestinian refugee camps, have made many officials weary of accepting incoming refugees and figuring out where to put them.
Recently, Syria has seen much violence and political uprisings. Refugees are spilling over the border at alarming numbers, into countries such as Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Lebanon. These refugees are mostly women and children, hoping to flee violence and make a better life for themselves. This continuous stream of refugees is prompting the UN and top officials in Lebanon to come up with an action plan of where to house these people fast.
Past experiences with Palestinian refugee camps have caused many people to strongly oppose them. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator has voiced his opinion by saying, “camps create more problems than they solve,and they are also incredibly expensive to maintain.” The construction and maintenance of these camps is almost out of the question, due to the low funding coming into refugee support.
Due to the low funding, on Wednesday Lebanon reached out to the United Nations as well as international donors for any possible support for these refugees. Lebanon is faced with a very low budget for the estimated 125,000 Syrian refugees already in the country that are coming over in numbers close to 20,000 per month. With such low funding, the government is being forced to make many of these refugees sleep on the streets and is unable to provide common necessities for them.
With low funding only adding to the problem, there is the issue of fear from the government of establishing camps to house these refugees. Many top officials are afraid that outbreaks of violence similar to the Palestinian outbreaks will occur that will damage the country. Also, some are fearful of throwing these people into refugee camps where the conditions are usually awful. None of these refugees want to live in camps, but they have no other choice because they cannot afford any alternate housing and usually flee to Lebanon with hardly anything but the clothes on their back.
For many, the clock is continuously ticking as they await funding and assistance to hopefully achieve a better lifestyle. The current aid is simply not enough to help these people survive and flourish. Unfortunately, the fragile balance of Lebanon’s economy might make this dire need of help further from reach. Hopefully the outreach today from Lebanon’s government will spark interest in the controversy and recruit aid. For now, it is a matter of waiting for hopeful results.
What do you think will happen to these Syrian refugees as violence continues to worsen in Syria? Do you think that Syrian refugee camps similar to Palestinian refugee camps will be set up throughout Lebanon?