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Syrian refugee families struggle in Lebanon

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It is estimated that since Syria’s civil war began over two-million Syrians have fled their homeland seeking refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The refugee families find themselves still struggling despite their escape, especially in Lebanon.

Many Syrians crossed into Lebanon at non official entry points for safety reasons. Some did so for financial reasons. Shelling on the roads led to crossing the border wherever possible. Financially, it is expensive to escape for larger families. Every Syrian has to pay 550 Syrian Lira to leave Syria, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Lebanese law gives little to no legal status to the Syrian refugees and their families. The NRC has recently released “The Consequences of Limited Legal Status of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon.” This limited status restricts the refugees’ freedom of movement which in turn limits the potential income of the refugee. It also, the report explains, presents some legal and even safety challenges. Without the proper documentation, and with limited legal status hanging over them, refugees tend not to seek police after a crime occurs. Services like healthcare are also limited or simply not available to refugees without the proper documentation.

The NRC is advocating for Lebanon to draft a comprehensive refugee policy. This policy could offer the refugees some basic rights and security. The report is available at http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/9687105.pdf.

Many women, according to the NRC report, are also falling victims of sexual harassment. This is especially true of women who have come without husbands or fathers.

Winter is another concern. Winter storms brought heavy snow and frigid temperatures to northern Lebanon. Thousands of Syrian refugee families live there in flimsy vinyl tents or tenement buildings with no electricity or water. There are no designated refugee camps. The severe winter weather and lack of adequate shelter leaves the refugees exposed to the elements and threatens their health and well-being.

The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) is helping provide the basic essentials for the refugees and their families. The IOCC is distributing stoves and fuel for heating and cooking. Nisrine, 23, a Syrian refugee, is one person receiving help. She huddles with her heavily bundled newborn daughter next to the welcome warmth of a propane stove provided by IOCC, which is also providing new refugee mothers like Nisrine with pre and post natal care as well as health care for the young children.

Since March 2012, IOCC has provided humanitarian relief to more than 890,000 Syrian people displaced in their own country or living as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Armenia.

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