Today, I’d like to bring your attention to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. We are grateful that Lebanon has opened its doors to Syrian refugees, however, the rapidly increasing population of refugees is challenging Lebanon’s resources, stretching them hazardously thin. This past week the number of Syrian refugees who have fled to Lebanon has surpassed the one million mark. While the refugees have managed to find relative safety away from the civil war that has engulfed their nation, many Syrians now struggle to meet the basic needs of their families including food, shelter, and education.
In response to the poor economic situation that many refugee families face, it has become common for refugee children to abandon their education in search of employment to support their families. The UN Refugee Agency recently profiled a family of 25 living in an underground garage and earning money by collecting garbage. As the article explains, “Of the 13 children under 17, only two go to school, and they then help with the sorting.” This work often keeps the men of the family out on the streets until 3 am. After the garbage is collected, it is up to the women to sort it and store it until it is picked up by a firm. With the price of rent on their dingy, underground dwelling at an estimated $1,000, it takes the entire family working together to pay this essential bill.
Other young refugees have found employment on city streets throughout Lebanon selling small items such as flowers, tissues, chewing gum, and shoeshines. In the rare case that a child does have the opportunity to attend school, they are often too tired from working late into the night. At night, as these young vendors set out, they face a variety of dangers including violence, robbery, and kidnapping. They also risk arrest and possible detainment in one of the already overflowing children’s homes. In a country with no official refugee camps for Syrian refugees, these risks of danger have become basic means of survival for families trying to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads.
Please call on your Congressional representative and encourage them to support welcoming policies for refugees through the LIRS Action Center.