Syrian refugees face resentment in Lebanon

27.07.2013 03:26

-- He escaped
the war, but life's no happier now for Omar.
The 8-year-old Syrian refugee longs for
friends back in Qusayr, hard hit by a civil war
that grinds on. He also misses days in school
-- when the most he had to worry about was
finishing his homework.
"I work so I can bring money for my family,"
says Omar. His mother, like other refugees,
asked that their last names not be used as
they are worried for their safety.
Eddie Izzard: In Syrian refugee camps,
another day of childhood is lost
I met Omar on a hot, dusty day in Lebanon's
wind-swept Bekaa Valley. We were
interviewing his mother when Omar and his
14-year-old brother came zooming by on a
motorbike. They had just finished gathering
eggs at a nearby farm -- what little money
the kids make is the only way their family is
able to survive.
The job is hard, but Omar went through an
even more difficult experience recently.
"They hit us," he says timidly,
describing how Lebanese boys
his age beat him up.
"They said to me," he adds,
embarrassed and close to
tears, " 'Damn every Syrian.' "
Omar now faces a different
kind of brutality -- a harsh
reality reflected in the weary
faces of kids all around. Their
eyes make them seem far
older. There's no childhood
spark, with smiles few and far
I ask a 15-year-old girl what
life's been like for her here.
"Life?" She asks unbelievingly
-- as if the question were a
"We manage to live, but it's
nothing like before."
She's forced to share a small
tent with nine others. She says
her circumstances are difficult, but at the
same time, she feels blessed with what her
family even has.
In makeshift refugee camps such as this one,
the overwhelming feeling is sadness. The
Syrians interviewed say they can't believe
their lives have come to this -- adding how
they're not just destitute, but they're also
facing discrimination.
Bushra, a Syrian woman in her 40s, says
she's still shocked at the kinds of hateful
words she's heard since arriving.
"Some people say to me, 'God bless Bashar
al-Assad's hands,' " she says, " 'the hands
that slaughtered you all -- you deserve
worse.' "
Bushra says it's told as a joke, but she and
her family aren't laughing.
The United Nations says more than 600,000
Syrians have fled to neighboring Lebanon, a
tiny country of about 4 million people. Aid
workers warn resentment toward Syrian
refugees is on the rise here.
"The crisis entered its third year now," says
Patricia Mouammar with World Vision, a
humanitarian aid and development
organization. "And the Lebanese community
-- even though very generous at the
beginning of this crisis, now they cannot take
the burden."
Mouammar says there are many reasons for
increasing tensions.
"Rent -- the prices of the rent have gone up,
up to 400% in some areas," she says.
"Salary wages plummeted, and Syrian
refugees are working for less, and they're
sharing homes with multiple families. And
everyone is feeling that -- everyone is feeling
the burden on the Lebanese hosting
Mouammar says her organization is "calling
for the humanitarian aid to direct more
assistance toward both communities -- the
Syrian refugees and the Lebanese
It's gotten so bad that some Lebanese
families have even been displaced.
Taha, a Lebanese father, says his family's
former landlord kicked them out when a
recently arrived Syrian family was willing to
pay double the rent.
His younger son's anger is clear as day.
"The Syrians took our world away from us,"
says 9-year-old Iyad. "There's nothing left
for us."
His father's outrage, however, is reserved for
"We're not against Syrians -- we have to help
the refugees," Taha says. "But our
government has to take care of us, too."
Pointing to his oldest, he says, "My son here,
now he has to work too -- it's awful."
There's no indication the teenager has heard
us. He sits and stares -- his hopelessness
and exhaustion apparent. He isn't just
drained. Like so many Syrian children, he's
also desperate.