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

Ebola Brings Sickness, Fear, Anger

Cornell University Professor Stacey Langwick considers cultural, social aspects of outbreak More

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Violent Quarantine Clashes Hamper Liberia's Struggle to Contain Ebola

Anger, misinformation and mistrust of government hampering efforts to contain the deadly virus 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid