Europe turns away Syrian refugees; Heart for Lebanon provides help and hope

By May 14, 2024

Lebanon (MNN) — Europe and the Middle East play ping pong with Syrian refugees, turning boatloads away from Cyprus and back to Lebanon’s shores.

Record numbers have been arriving in Cyprus – the closest European territory – seeking asylum. On Thursday, the European Union gave Lebanon one billion euros to help the crisis-ridden country care for its refugee population.

Syrian refugees “have fled their war-torn country seeking a safe place to live and reside, hoping that eventually their life will be better. But this is not happening in Lebanon,” Heart for Lebanon’s Camille Melki explains.

“The refugees feel unwelcome [but] most of them cannot return to Syria. The other alternative, then, would be to emigrate elsewhere. The only way to do it right now is illegal travel into Europe, through land or sea, and Europe, of course, does not want to deal with this problem.”

One billion euros may seem sufficient, but Lebanon has many refugee mouths to feed.

“The United Nations recently announced that Lebanon has the densest per square mile of refugees; [more] than any other country on planet Earth,” Melki says.

“Around 60 percent of the inhabitants of Lebanon today are refugees from a nearby country.”

Understanding refugee complexities in Lebanon

Lebanon’s refugee situation is complex with no easy solutions. “The best way to [understand] this is to differentiate between the political, economic, and social matters, and then look at this whole humanitarian crisis,” Melki says.

First: a political perspective. “The Syrian army occupied Lebanon from 1975 to 2005, and most of us in Lebanon believe that Syria continues to meddle in our politics,” Melki says. “Syrian refugees are used as political pressure on the government and on the people of Lebanon.”

(Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon)

Ethnic religion plays a role, too. Currently, “one-third of our population is Sunni, another third of our population is Shia, and then the last third are Christians. The majority of the refugees are Sunni, and it looks like this is swaying the population of Lebanon,” Melki says.

Next, “Hosting such a large refugee population has a serious impact on our economy” and infrastructure, Melki says. “It affects almost every service that the government gives, whether it’s the power grids, the water supply, the sewage – everything.”

Political and economic pressures naturally flow into the social sphere. “Tensions between the Lebanese and the Syrians are rising; the hatred towards the refugees continues to grow, and the refugees’ hatred towards the locals, who they feel [are] treating them unfairly,” Melki says.

Rather than pick sides, Heart for Lebanon provides refugees with help for today and hope for tomorrow. Here’s how you can help by partnering with Heart for Lebanon.

“What gets us out of bed every morning, what drives us to care and love people, is Christ’s compassionate heart,” Melki says.

“Refugees are human beings just like us and deserve to be treated with dignity. Every party involved [at the national level] feels like they don’t want to own it (the refugee crisis) and take responsibility.”




Header and story images courtesy of Heart for Lebanon.

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