News / Middle East

Lebanon Cracks Down on Syrian Refugees

Syrian children at refugee camp in the eastern town of Marj, Bekaa valley, Lebanon, June 29, 2014.
Syrian children at refugee camp in the eastern town of Marj, Bekaa valley, Lebanon, June 29, 2014.

Lebanese authorities have started to enforce new measures that would limit the number of Syrians entering Lebanon as part of efforts to reduce the more than one million refugees from the war-shattered nation already within their borders.

The move has prompted an outcry from rights groups who say that, by seeking to deny sanctuary, the Lebanese government is violating international law, a complaint Beirut officials deny.

When Syrian refugees began arriving in 2011, they were greeted with sympathy by Lebanese people appalled at the viciousness of the civil war being waged next door. But fatigue has since set in and anger is flaring over competition for scarce jobs at a time of price inflation and general economic malaise. With economic, political, and security worries increasing, compassion for Syrians is being replaced with frustration and fear.

“The mood has changed,” said Omar Abdul Rahmanam, an aid worker in the Bekaa Valley town of Bar Elias.

Impatience is rising, even among Lebanese who initially reached out to the refugees, he says.

“Things changed because of the big numbers of refugees who came here,” he said. “Even the way [Lebanese] people look at them and treat them has changed.”

The impatience is reflected in measures Lebanese authorities are now seeking to enforce. Under the restrictions, passed by the Lebanese Cabinet in June, refugee status will be granted only to Syrians “coming from regions where battles are raging near the Lebanese border,” according to Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas. Syrians arriving from further afield will be denied refugee status, although some humanitarian exceptions may be made.

Many Syrian refugees come from distant towns and villages of eastern Syria and the northern city of Aleppo.

Authorities also plan to strip refugees of their status if they return to Syria, however briefly. Families often send one member back to obtain medicines, which are cheaper in Syria, and to check up on family property and renew important Syrian identity documents, including passports.

Syrian-Palestinians, who comprise about five percent of the Syrians refugee population already in Lebanon, face additional hurdles: the burdensome administrative requirements and financial demands that aid workers claim are virtually impossible to meet.

One third of population

Numbering well over a million, Syrian and Syrian-Palestinian refugees make up nearly a third of Lebanon’s population. Some 825,000 are registered with the United Nations.

As more refugees flow into Lebanon, depleting U.N. funds and humanitarian aid — straining the resources, infrastructure and patience of the hard-pressed Lebanese — the refugee struggle is becoming harder. Securing enough food to feed large families, adequate accommodation, and jobs is a matter of survival.

That includes Syrian refugees who opened stores in the Bekaa Valley.

In recent weeks the Lebanese authorities have been shuttering their stores on the grounds they are illegal and lack the necessary permits.

According to Antoine Sleiman, governor of Bekaa Valley, hundreds of Syrian-run stores are being closed because owners lack the required paperwork. Denying the move is anti-refugee, he tells reporters “as long as it’s done according to the law and all the regulations of the state,” the Syrians can open stores.

But some commercial lawyers say the necessary permits are hard for Syrians to secure.

“Things are being weighted against them,” said one Lebanese attorney who asked not to be named.

Despite requests from the U.N. and aid agencies, Lebanese politicians have refused to open official refugee camps, fearing that doing so may encourage refugees to remain.

When it comes to shelter, the refugees currently have to fend for themselves. While the government says most have family and friends with whom they can stay, aid workers say that most refugees actually pay high rents for makeshift accommodation, stoking rental price inflation for the Lebanese as well.

Others live in the more than 1,000 makeshift camps.

Securing donations has also become harder for local charities, says Sheikh Mohammed Gamil Nizah, a Salafist cleric in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

“Those who used to give money won’t now," he said. "I have big problems with funds to help refugees.”

But Derbas, the social affairs minister, dismisses criticism of the new restrictions on refugees, saying the sheer scale of the crisis forced authorities to take action in order to head off conflict between Lebanese and Syrian communities.

“We no longer accept that the Syrian crisis should be dealt with as a humanitarian issue,” he told reporters. “It’s a political issue.”

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: jon
August 21, 2014 9:54 PM
where is the help from EU,UN,UNHCR,Australia, ...how come no one is offering resettlement to EU like they are offering resettlement for Yazidis, and Iraqi Christians refugees ....is it not this double standard treatment for such a democratic establishment like EU and European nations

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid