The situation of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon is dire. Although there are no official figures for the number of Iraqis who, as a result of the war, have fled to
Lebanon, according to the Ambassador of Iraq in Beirut, more than 50,000 Iraqi families are living there. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates
that one third of the Iraqis in Lebanon are children. These traumatized people are unable to work, send their children to school or receive even the most
basic health care. What resources they may once have had, have been depleted. They live in precarious circumstances in the poorest areas. With the current
situation, health and hygiene standards are almost nonexistent.
Iraqi medical needs are largely unanswered. In Jordan, medical services are limited to emergency care. Syria gave Iraqis free access to medical services until
2005; since then they have been required to pay. In Lebanon, all medical services are private.
Access to education for children is second greatest need. Although Syria allows Iraqi children to attend public schools, many families cannot afford the school
supplies and uniform required for their children to attend. The state of education in Jordan is more restrictive, and is conditioned on availability of space, if
available! Lebanon does not allow Iraqis to attend public schools at all, forcing parents to enroll their children in private schools with the costs of tuition,
supplies, transportation, and other surviving costs that keep most children out of schools.
Although there are no official figures, the UNHCR estimates that there are more than 40,000 Iraqi refugees in Lebanon, of which 30% are children. These
children are not involved in any kind of formal education, with an average of three years spent out of school.
While many refugees from Iraq come from comfortable backgrounds as they are the lucky ones able to afford the great expense of leaving the country, all
face challenges that quickly plunge them into a subsistence existence. Many Iraqi have their savings drained before even leaving the country by paying
ransoms for kidnapped family members. Iraqis resources are being further depleted by their inability to work legally in host countries. Though most refugees
have marketable skills, having worked as doctors, teachers, architects, blacksmiths, hairdressers etc, they are barred from practicing their trade. Further,
many Iraqis are afraid to work for fear having their papers checked and then being detained and then deported. It is worth noting that hundreds of Iraqis
(women and men) are detained in Lebanon, waiting for deportation.
Housing and Living Circumstances:
Other than an access to job, the number one need of Iraqi refugees is housing assistance. Partially due to the large influx of Iraqis seeking shelter in limited
housing market, rents in Damascus and Beirut have increased remarkably in the past three years, and constitute the largest single expense for Iraqi families.
The average of Iraqi refugee’s home circumstances is pretty desperate. On average they live in the poorest parts of the poorest areas. It is not uncommon to
find two families, each with 3 or 4 children, living in a single or double room in Syria and Lebanon. The living conditions are the major lead to health issues
like skin rashes, respiratory problems, tuberculosis, in addition to psychological problems.
At present conditions for Iraqis in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria are poor. With no financial income, and no jobs availability, as well as the minimal help
received, led to increasing poor-nutrition related conditions as well other health problems related to the hygienic issues (as families cannot afford it all time) in
children and adults.
None of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria is signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and are therefore not bound to guarantee refugees protection. Instead,
incoming Iraqis are classified as illegal migrants. Iraqis in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are nobody. They are refugees according to UNHCR, but what rights
does that recognition really afford them?
In Lebanon and Jordan, the situation is more difficult for Iraqis. Both countries are now showing a diminishing tolerance for Iraqi presence. Refugees are
increasingly arrested for illegal presence, imprisoned and forced to choose between remaining in prison and being deported.
In Lebanon, priced at $4,000 irrespective of nationality, acquiring leave to remain for longer than a month is expensive. The only way is to find a sponsor, who
can give work and pay for residence permit.
|Refugees Current Situation
|The Royal Academy of Science International Trust
|at the heart of Science, Education, Economy, Arts & Sustainable Development
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---- Miriam, 8 yrs old refugee - Lebanon