A Dialogue with Lebanon over Refugees

Often when you open the papers, the first story that grabs your attention is the European migrant boat crisis and how little is being done to protect the seas or send the migrants back, out of harm’s way, to where they came from. What you don’t often see is another refugee crisis that has stemmed from a civil war in one country in the Gulf. In Syria, since 2011, a bloody civil war has been raging, as the Arab Spring gripped neighbouring countries. The war is confusing because on one hand it seems like a protest against the government, and on the other hand it appears to be sectarian violence, borne out of different religious factions. But what does this have to do with a refugee crisis?

Plenty. In short. Many Syrians are fleeing the violence in the country and crossing over to territories, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and even Turkey and Iraq, where foreign policy has had a prolonged presence, in an advisory capacity. These are people who have been displaced, as well, so they really should be shown the road back home because they have ended up in a foreign country, an unfamiliar place. But that is the least of the problems because most of the refugees are birds of flight from internal violence in their home state. On certain days, there is no end to the amount of press coverage and public outcry that ensues over the plight of the refugees, but no one ever cares about the plight of the locals of the lands, which have been forced to absorb these refugees.

People should think more and more about these locals because they have become prisoners in their own land, stripped of the bare necessities to survive, as more and more refugees begin to outnumber the population in countries, such as Lebanon. The Syrian government has turned a blind eye to the problems the refugees are causing in neighbouring countries – numerous government bodies have provided dedicated aid to the refugees and so many governments are there to end the violent war taking place in Syria, but the repercussions of it back with it’s neighbouring countries is one of constant oppression and this cannot go on. It is very easy for Syrians to jump border points and get inside both Lebanon and Turkey.

Tent cities have been set up, close to Turkey’s borders and these people have been provided for there but I, would like to highlight, the plight of the Turkish people please, and conduct more dialogue over what to do with this refugee deadlock transpiring in Lebanon. International action must be taken by the United Nations and the European Union, we cannot turn a blind eye to the crisis here, only because the plight of the refugees seems one that people across the world seem to be invested in. The dialogue here should centre on providing aid, some of which could be food aid, development aid, as the latest event conducted in Addis Ababa, to launch the UN’s Millennium Development Goal plans, have priortised, and one should remember that some decisions, hard as they might be, are the right decisions.

We cannot simply expect to continue to open our borders for this many number of years, because the civil war sees no end in sight. Italy is a first world country, still trying to grapple with political crises, it is not Libya, so people have got to stop looking at the two countries, as if they are the same. We must operate a closed-door policy to the refugee crisis, if they keep on coming here in throngs – normally, we review each particular situation as they come in for refugees, and we are always glad to support most countries in the world, when deadly wars are being fought on their soil. But this seems to be a war with no end in sight – if you compared this to Greece, and it’s troubles the picture is very starkly different. The public in Greece are fed up of austerity, and doing all they can to get their country back on the feet, inclusive of voting in-and-out the common currency benchmark and successive governments.

I would now like to ask all of the governments involved in sorting out the crisis in Syria this: how long are you going to turn a blind eye to the problems the Lebanese and the Iraqis, face on a day-to-day basis? How long are you going to only see half a picture? The picture that is the plight of refugees, who I have read have such hope in their eyes, that they can simply cross borders and topple the lives of the local population. There have been countless wars in these lands, but never in my living memory have I seen such a great influx of refugees for any of them on another country’s soil. It is an unpopular choice, let me be very clear, to choose to help refugees in Turkey and Jordan, without knowing the full picture. In Lebanon, there is already great fear that the government’s politics and ideas are not being taken seriously over the constant influx of refugees inside borders.

The dialogue here, thus, must focus on what can be done to solve the migrant crisis in Lebanon. It should discuss about the plight of the Lebanese: the government can ill-afford to support Syrian refugees and international assistance must be directed to avert this crisis soon because the government cannot continue to work like this. Thousands of Syrian refugees enter Lebanon, daily, and live all around the country, including in Beirut. Lebanon has not warmed to the idea of “the Syrian revolution” and this has harmed national security but the slow response is because of the party in power, which aims to help the refugees stationed there. The party is riding on a tidal wave of fear of sectarian violence in the country, with many wondering if the refugees will have anything to go back home to. So their response is to keep them inside Lebanon but they do not care at all about how this is impacting the national economy.

Businesses are seeing a downturn in profits, there are no tourists in the area because of concerns over security, and transport networks, housing and educational industries continue to suffer. Investor confidence is low in Lebanon because of the conflict but wealthy Syrians are still managing to keep something in the country afloat, through investment in real estate. Refugees in the country regularly received aid but the host families, most of them, absorbing these refugees get no aid or a paycheck for the troubles, because many of them are family members and they must let them stay for free. Income is swiftly in decline and resentment continues to grow between the Lebanese and the Syrians, particularly how a trade bloc has emerged in Syria for Lebanon, because of the violent war. There is a bread shortage in Lebanon, as well, so the dialogue here should focus on providing international food aid to the Lebanese, as well as international assistance in the form of coping with this crisis, at least, for as long as we cannot find an alternative solution over what to do with Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

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About Osmi Anannya

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