Lebanon (MNN) — As ISIS expands its caliphate, taking over key cities in Iraq and Syria, refugees have been forced to flee to neighboring countries. But after the arrival of around 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, the country is closing its doors to any newcomers and enforcing new policies on refugees currently staying in the country.
“They are beginning to charge [the refugees] $200 twice a year for allowing them to have the privilege to legally stay in Lebanon,” says Steve Van Valkenberg of Christian Aid Mission.
Anyone who does not pay this fine is subject to arrest, detention, or forced eviction.
“The refugees have no money anyway, so basically they’re caught in the middle.”
Adult and child refugees are forced to work for low-paying jobs in order to scrounge up any money they can for the permits.
In return, they can only afford living conditions that are less than adequate.
According to Christian Aid Mission, half of the refugees have found shelter with families, in community groups, or in tents set up by Non-Governmental Organizations. The other half is scrambling for any apartment they can find.
Many of the refugees who cannot afford the permit have stopped traveling or going outdoors altogether.
“They don’t want to go outside. They don’t want to go to Bible studies. They don’t want to be caught because if they’re caught, they have to go to jail if they can’t pay the $200,” VanValkenberg says.
“The ministries really feel like they need to help these Christians, but they don’t really have the resources to help them to pay the $200 tax twice a year.”
Then, there’s donor fatigue. “After over 4 years of hearing about the refugees, many have just sort of become tired of hearing about it,” Van Valkenberg laments.
To many, it’s a problem that can’t be solved.
“But the needs are still very great–in fact, even greater in some ways.” Van Valkenberg explains that the UN and other NGOs aren’t providing resources any more.
“Everything is destroyed within [Syria]. [Refugees] can’t go back anyway. For many of them, they just see it as a hopeless day-to-day existence.”
But in the midst of the difficulty, Van Valkenberg says there’s a great opportunity here for Christians. “The most openness that’s ever been within Islam to Jesus Christ, has been in the last 2 or 3 years, just with the crisis there. Many are believing in Christ,” he says.
“There’s a great harvest right now. In that regard, this has been a golden opportunity.”
Christian Aid Mission wants to continually help the forgotten refugees by meeting tangible needs. “We have 16 different indigenous mission groups that are in those countries. They’re reaching out in the name of Christ, and it’s a great opportunity for Christians to be able to help them.”
You can come alongside to show the love and freedom of Jesus to Syrian refugees because it saves lives both physically and spiritually. There are an unlimited number of opportunities to help, and you can start here.