Lebanon (MNN) – Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon are no picnic. Sanitation is dicey, illness lurks in every corner, and food and space are seriously lacking. The terms often associated with the camps are ‘squalid’, ‘overcrowded’ and ‘neglected’.
There’s a strong push from the Lebanese government to force the refugees back into Syria, the destruction of several camps, and crackdowns on the refugees, and they’re unwanted. Looking into Syria, it’s not safe enough to return home yet, so almost a third of Lebanon’s population is essentially ‘stateless.’
The government doesn’t recognize them, and to the populace, they’re faceless masses. In short, they’re ‘nobodies.’ No one will miss them if they disappear because no one will notice. That means they’re doubly vulnerable prey to traffickers. Triumphant Mercy’s Lebanon director, Nuna, says she was stunned to learn that for some of the refugees they’re helping, this is an issue.
Horror at a new challenge
First, she says, “Teachers started to come to me, and even parents started to say, ‘you have to have the van come inside the camp.’ Usually, we gather in front of the camp so we can pick them up and bring them to school.”
When she inquired further, “I started to hear stories of so many kids just waiting on the stairs of their home and some other car coming and trying to pick them up–things like that that are just repetitive now. It’s a new situation that we’re facing; I don’t know how to deal with this.”
Nuna started investigating these stories because nothing had made it into their local media. “I asked people that I know, inside the UN (UNHCR). They hadn’t heard it. But then they started to ask, and then two days later, they came back to me and said, ‘Yes, this is happening.'” What horrified her was the kind of trafficking involved. It was already horrifing to hear that traffickers preyed on children, but it wasn’t labor or even sex trafficking. “It’s organ trafficking—selling organs.”
A recent BBC investigation revealed that as Syrian refugees grow more desperate to support themselves and their families, they’ve resorted to selling body parts, resulting in a booming business in Lebanon.
What to do?
Triumphant Mercy immediately doubled down on security measures to try to protect families they work with. However, the underground that connects this kind of market still deeply troubles her. Nuna has never had to deal with evil of this nature before. She prays for wisdom because the thought of something happening on her watch keeps her awake at night. “Prayer is definitely needed for not only for Triumphant Mercy but for these people, that they will be caught, that the government will be able to do something.”
The refugees also turned to her for help because they trust the ministry team. TM invests heavily in building relationships, so they also understand the distress, and the refugees trust them.
As a result, these new security challenges weigh heavily. “Not only have you been displaced, not only do you have the pressure of life, not only do you not know what tomorrow holds, but you also don’t know if you’re going to be evicted from camp or not. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to go back to Syria or not, but also being afraid that your kids will disappear. That’s another trauma on top of everything else.”
Pray through the news
For now, TM’s response is enough. They’re the ones who let Syrian refugees know that Triumphant Mercy sees them and that they matter in more ways than one. For Nuna, it’s about sharing the burden in the face of a shadowy threat. “Why would I spend time with people that I don’t know, that will leave sometime, that I might never see again? It’s just so that I can share the love of Christ, share that Christ is there for everyone, that they’re not forgotten—to share that there is hope for tomorrow.”
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Header photo courtesy of Triumphant Mercy Lebanon