Why is Lebanon anti-Syrian refugees

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Negative Coping Strategies

The situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is dire. Many of the estimated up to 1.5 million people live under unworthy conditions in a country with almost no social security.

Some of the Syrian refugees live in simple tarpaulin tents in the Lebanese Bekaa plain near Anjar, where it can get very cold in winter. Photos: Joachim Koch

Burned rubber sticks in thick layers on the asphalt, sometimes so high that our coach has to slalom on the way to the airport and the roadblocks can only pass where the burned car tires have already run flat. There is still a slight fire in two places, and heavy smoke can be detected at two tire barricades. Boulders lie on the road. Our tour group leaves Lebanon after two weeks. The aim of our encounter trip, which the Evangelical Parish Office for Foreign Work in Bad Kreuznach organized, was to better understand the situation of the predominantly Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Now we are experiencing conditions that are reminiscent of civil war.

The day before, there had been large demonstrations in Beirut and in major cities in Lebanon. The state is extremely indebted, people worry about inflation and social decline. They are tired of government mismanagement and corruption. One of the greatest refugee disasters of modern times is taking place in Syria and the surrounding countries. There are currently over three million Syrian refugees living in Turkey alone.

Mostly women and children

For Lebanon, the country with the second largest number of refugees, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) lists one million refugees from Syria. The government of Lebanon names the figure of 1.5 million - mostly women and children. Since 2011, 175,000 children have been born to registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Even before the refugee crisis, which began in 2011, there were around 500,000 migrant workers from Syria. In addition to the registered refugees, a high number of non-officially immigrated refugees can be assumed.

The Syrian refugees are spread all over Lebanon. They live in houses, in ruins, in Palestinian refugee camps, in simple tent dwellings made of tarpaulin on the Bekaa plain, where it can get very cold in winter. Refugees are not entitled to regular medical treatment; the health system becomes active when the disease spreads, otherwise volunteer doctors may help. 33,000 families (out of 200,000) receive US $ 175 a month and 166,000 families receive US $ 75 a month for five months as winter aid: US $ 450 is necessary because the cost of living in Lebanon is very high. The refugees have to work to pay the rent for the tent accommodation or apartments and everything else to live. 69 percent of the households of Syrian refugees in Lebanon lived below the poverty line in 2018 (1).

An example village in Lebanon with 5,000 inhabitants has 1,500 Syrian refugees. It is complained that the refugees incur costs through waste disposal or the use of electricity. On the other hand, it can be argued that they are also consumers and thus customers from whom the Lebanese earn money. They are also cheap workers who create value. But the Syrian refugees are seen as competitors on the labor market because they sometimes work at dumping prices: for ten dollars a day, which is around a quarter of the income of the locals. Most of the refugees want to return to Syria. But that is not possible because they would not be safe in their homeland. The houses of many of the villages they come from have been made uninhabitable by the Syrian army. The return of the refugees is not wanted, they are Sunni Muslims, the rulers in Syria belong to the religious minority of the Alawites.

The refugee crisis in Lebanon is taking place in a country of extremes with confusing conditions and contradictions: the exorbitant gap between rich and poor; a weak state opposes strong individuals or families or clans; in 18 different religious communities any sense of national identity is lost. A welfare state is almost completely absent, the grotesque fact that people lose their entitlement to medical services in old age.

With the school project “Alphabet”, the refugee children in the camp receive hope and perspective in a desolate environment.

The school project "Alphabet"

Our tour group visits two refugee camps in the Bekaa plain near Anjar. Most of the refugees in Lebanon live in this region. The group's bus is parked a bit away from the camp, we walk along a path along a stream, the surface of which is almost completely covered with plastic waste and green waste. The tarpaulin warehouse is next to an open field, the dimensions cannot be estimated. Then we are noticed and children approach us. Many look happy, they wear colorful clothes and would like to be photographed. We visit the school project "Alphabet". Because training opportunities were too far from the camp, private individuals founded the project in 2012. The project lives on donations. The teachers in the tent schools receive an expense allowance. In a tarpaulin tent, we see two small classrooms that are overcrowded with students. It is explained to us that teaching is strictly according to the curriculum and that the children can go to secondary Lebanese state schools after attending school. The promoters explain that many parents did not want their children to go to school because they lacked the income from their work. However, children who do not go to school are at greater risk of isolation, discrimination and exploitation. The “Alphabet” school is now attended by 95 percent of the children in the camp, which has become the norm: a piece of hope and perspective in a bleak environment.

A resettlement program is an immediate protection measure for refugees who have significant protection needs and vulnerabilities, such as survivors of torture or violence. You will be permanently resettled in another country. Women and girls, children and young people as well as people with medical needs or disabilities are also in need of protection. Refugees in the resettlement process are protected against rejection, receive the same rights as the local population and receive special support with regard to their special vulnerability. According to the UNHCR, around 99,000 Syrian refugees are particularly in need of protection in this regard.

Desolate situation

In their chronically tense situation, these refugees often use negative coping strategies. These include child labor, marrying minors, accepting very dangerous jobs, begging or selling personal effects (2). In view of this desolate situation, politics is called for. The United Nations Refugee Agency hopes that Germany will take in Syrian refugees from Lebanon again next year.

There are hardly any studies worldwide with robust data on the mental health of refugees (3). Nesterko and colleagues have just published an epidemiological study in which refugees who have just arrived in Germany from different countries were examined for post-traumatic stress disorders, depression and somatization disorders. The authors found one of the three mentioned mental disorders in half of those examined. This underlines the requirement that the arriving refugees must receive appropriate psychosocial, psychotherapeutic and medical care. Joachim Koch,

Psychological psychotherapist

Yassin, N: 101 Facts & Figures on the Syrian Refuge Crisis; 2019. Volume II. 1–141. AUB. Beirut. Available at: http://www.aub.edu.lb/ifi.
UNHCR Resettlement Handbook. Geneva 2011, 1-428. Available at: http://daebl.de/KG95.
Nesterko N, et al .: Prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and somatization in recently arrived refugees in Germany: an epidemiological study. Cambridge University Press, 2019. 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1017/S2045796019000325.