Lebanon is in the middle of a spiralling socio-economic crisis, as it continues to struggle with a political deadlock after years of corruption and a recently failing economy. Such internal issues have been compounded by the presence of over 1.5 million Syrian refugees, recorded by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This large population mass is one of many pockets of individuals and families who have continued to attempt to flee the deadly nine-year Syrian civil war.
This conflict is thought to have displaced tens of millions of people, both within Syria and others have moved to neighbouring countries. Syrians who now reside in Lebanon face very harsh winter conditions and the increasing volatility of Lebanese internal affairs, which is generating a lot of uncertainty. With exacerbating tensions between locals and authorities’, refugees have become another direction of blame for civil issues. For Lebanon, recognised by the United Nations Refugee Agency as “providing refuge to the highest number of refugees per capita in the world,” continued international support is vital to ensure the safety and protection of those who have fled crisis and are residing in their country.
For those Syrian refugees living in the Beqaa Valley (Eastern Lebanon) have just survived a particularly harsh winter with freezing conditions and deadly snowfall creating an almost inhospitable environment. Despite the severity of conditions over the last few months, many fear that conditions won’t improve. Michal Kranz, reporting for Aljazeera cites that “the sharp economic and financial downturn gripping Lebanon has brought old anxieties,” as many Syrian refugees fear that volatile protests in the capital Beirut could break out into wider civil conflict. For Lebanese nationals’, quality of life has significantly decreased in the last four months, and yet, it is these refugees who represent some of the most vulnerable groups living within this nation’s borders.
The situation has declined so rapidly that the International Crisis Group (ICG) reports that many tens of thousands have risked returning to Syria despite the destroyed cities and lack of socio-economic opportunities. ICG reports that “the decision to cross the border is irreversible and for most the consequences can be grave” as they risk entering active warzones between Asaad’s army and resistant forces.
The Organisation for World Peace advocates for increased international attention to the crisis experienced by Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. As the world begins to lock-down and reacts to the ever-changing COVID-19 outbreak, it is crucial that we do not divert attention from very vulnerable populations who have been, and continue to navigate, unimaginable hardship and destitution. The BBC has reported that Lebanon has declared a national crisis, like many of its European neighbours over COVID-19, and this represents a clear threat to the safety of all people regardless of age, nationality or status. Just as we have been urged by the World Health Organisation to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable members of our own communities, we must continue to fight for the safety of those refugees who need urgent humanitarian assistance as they continue to find themselves adrift and isolated.