Refugees prefer flooded camps in Lebanon

Even though, the conditions at the Syrian refugee camps get worse with the storm hitting the country, the inhabitants have their reasons for not going back to their home.

refugees, Lebanon,
The tented accommodation in the Bekaa valley (Lebanon). © Russell Watkins at Department for International Development

The sun has come back for a few days now, but a new storm is coming. Natural catastrophic storm will hit again the Syrian refugees at Lebanon adding rain and snow piles to their woes. The makeshift camps for the refugees in Lebanon has already faced a strong winter storm as the habitants remain caught “between the machinations of Lebanon’s politics and Russian plans for their repatriation”.

According to ReliefWeb, a service provided by the UN Office for the “Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs”, over seventy thousand Syrian refugees, more than fifty percent of which consisted of children and women, came under the risk of the storm, while the prediction of weather situation worsening further was also made.

Juriya Ramadan, one among the Syrian refugees, coming from Deir ez-Zor in Syria, who has taken shelter in the Bekaa Valley which also fell prey to the storm, stated: “People are sick. Everywhere there is water. We cannot sleep at night. It has been three days like this. All night we sit and watch the kids and we cannot do anything for them. Their situation is very bad.”

While, in the word of an analyst, Alex Rowell: “From the very start of Syrian refugees’ arrival to Lebanon (in late 2011), those in the unofficial camps have been living in the kind of conditions one still sees across much of the Bekaa Valley today.”

The countryside of Lebanon sees shelters made of “thermoplastic sheets strung across breeze blocks and old tyres” as a regular sight, wherein some even do not have “electricity, water or sewage”. And Rowell added: “Some have been able to fortify and develop these structures, using bricks and cement and other rudimentary construction materials but, if so, this has been either of their own initiative or with the assistance of one NGO or another.”

There is been a dwindling budget for aid as the donor countries continue to break promises worsening the conditions of the refugees at the camp, while policies are made to be subjects of “local concerns”. Rowell said: “While some municipalities have taken on disproportionately high numbers of refugees, spending above-average per capita sums, others have flat-out refused to accept any refugees. Many enforce curfews at night and other discriminatory measures against Syrians.”

On the other hand, the Research Director of the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute, Nasser Yassin said: “I think there’s been a real growth in the sympathy for the refugees among the people of Lebanon. Certainly, looking at social media you see that people are concerned. However, I don’t think it’s going to mark a major policy shift. People are too concerned about domestic politics and maintaining Lebanon’s sectarian balance.”

Russia, however, has been urging for the “refugees’ return to Syria” for bolstering the legitimacy of Assad regime which would allow “further international involvement” in Syria for Russia in the former’s “costly reconstruction process”. And Yassin said: “I think the terrible conditions in the camps do help reinforce the case for their return. However, we’re still to hear as much from the refugees themselves.”

However, the case made in Kremlin didn’t uplift the “rain-sodden, frozen camps of Lebanon”. And Rowell added that even though the refugees have the option to return now “yet overwhelmingly (they) choose to remain in such unimaginable misery only further underscores their aversion to life under [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s regime.”

According to Rowell for the refugees “Even freezing winters in flooded camps [are] preferable by comparison” as they shudder from the idea of returning to Syria to face “torture, detention, conscription or the ‘staggering official corruption and misrule at all levels’”. An unbearable situation.