News / Middle East

Syrian Refugees Struggle in Squalid Conditions on Lebanese Border

Henry Ridgwell

A report from the United Nations says there has been a spike in the number of Syrian refugees registering in Lebanon. In the frontier town of Wadi Khaled, hundreds of refugees are sleeping in abandoned buildings close to the Syrian border and surviving with only the most basic facilities.

The abandoned Aabra School on the Lebanon-Syria border, home to 80 Syrian refugees.
The abandoned Aabra School on the Lebanon-Syria border, home to 80 Syrian refugees.

Aabra School sits on a windswept hill overlooking the mountainous border. It is home to 80 refugees from Syria. The building was abandoned years ago. Each dark, damp room is home to one family. Outside it’s often below freezing. Diesel heaters hold off the chill, but pump out choking fumes.

In the day, the men gather to talk about the uprising back home. All have tales of terror and torture. Merha Ibrahim said he escaped with his family after being held for several weeks for attending anti-government protests.

“They would hang us by our arms so our legs were off the ground and we would be swinging in the air. They would also electrocute us all over our bodies,” he said. “I still have marks and scars from that. They also had a method where they made us lie down on a kind of plank of wood. It was in two pieces,” he said, “hinged in the middle, and we were tied to it, our feet and our arms tied together. And then the plank was folded so that our feet were in the air. Then they would start hitting us.”

In the next room, women and infants sit around the diesel stove. Since the refugees arrived last summer, 15 babies have been born inside this school. The mother of a two-week-old boy said it’s too cold and they have no medicine. Charities like The Red Crescent provide food, milk, and drinking water.

The men say they want to earn money to survive and look after their families - but can’t.

“Papers - we have no papers. We want to work but we don’t have papers. We can’t come and go,” said one father.

Map showing flow of refugees into Lebanon and Turkey
Map showing flow of refugees into Lebanon and Turkey

Another man said the Syrian government tries to take revenge on the refugees.

“The only way we can help our people is by talking to journalists and making our stories known,” he said. “And, of course, the regime watches the television, sees what we are doing… two days ago my house got trashed for the second time. Sometimes they threaten to attack our families, our elderly parents.”

A few thousand refugees have made it over from Syria into Lebanon, most of them finding shelter with families or friends. So far the Lebanese government is staying quiet on the issue. But the danger for them is if that trickle turns into a torrent.

With the violence in Syria seemingly worsening by the week, the United Nations’ refugee agency said it’s prepared for more arrivals.

"We have hired a shelter expert from our headquarters to come and assess the current situation and check whether there are more abandoned schools," said Dana Sleiman, who is from the UNHCR. "We have some, there are more common shelters where we could host more people should there be a need.”

Nightfall brings a dull quiet to Aabra School. The car batteries powering the lights soon will run out. The refugees here have escaped the violence. But like Syria, their future seems precarious.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen; decision could come Monday More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid