The ongoing war in Syria has caused the displacement of almost 10 million people both internally and externally. Thus, fearing for their lives many Syrians chose to flee to their neighboring country, Lebanon, for a chance of survival and a better life. Therefore, for the past decade, Lebanon has hosted more than 3 million documented Syrian refugees as well as undocumented ones.
Based on surveys and established trends, almost 73 percent of all Syrian refugees rent either in residential buildings in cities or rural settlements. Most of the occupied housing units are in poor condition. They could be lacking in either kitchen, toilet, doors, windows, electricity, running water, or all of these essential things together.
Moreover, almost a third of the refugee population share their housing and basic lodgings with multiple families in overcrowded conditions. Furthermore, more than 18 percent of them live in fragile makeshift tents in spontaneously set-up settlements. In addition, the remaining nine percent of their population lives in non-residential structures including garages, shops, worksites, and farm buildings.
Moreover, the 2017 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees (VASyR) reported that 80 percent of refugees rent their accommodation, paying USD 183 per month. The rents average usually nearly doubles in dense urban areas. Furthermore, up to 43 percent of refugee households reported that they either borrow the money to meet rent costs or else they won’t be able to pay the rent. Therefore most of them are drowning in debt.
Lebanon situation in light of the refugee crisis
According to UN data, 1 out of five individuals in Lebanon is a refugee. With more than one-third of the local population being Syrian refugees, Lebanon is greatly overwhelmed. Also, the country already hosts early 400,000 Palestinian refugees. Thus, the addition of the Syrian refugees is straining the country drastically. Lebanon is currently living through its worst, toughest, and roughest humanitarian, social, and economic challenges in its history.
Moreover, this demographic weight leads to competition in the Lebanese labor market. Syrians are observed to work more hours for less pay and no social advantages. Thus, they have more edge than the Lebanese population. Therefore, both unemployment and poverty continue to rise in the country among the locals.
Studies show that since the start of the crisis, 4 percent of the Lebanese families have fallen under the poverty threshold. These families are added to the already existing 25 percent of the population living under poverty.
Services are also spreading thin in light of the current situation. Reports proved that about 57 percent of students resigning in Lebanese public schools are Syrians. Of course, the strain is also impacting the already poor infrastructure.
hence, The financial and economic impact related solely to refugees is estimated by the central bank at $4.5 billion every year.
Positive impact on the country
On the other hand, refugees do affect Lebanon positively. According to some economists, Syrian refugees are helping the fragile Lebanese economy. The Lebanese economist Kamal Hamdan estimated that the demand of the Syrian refugees alone generated 1.3 percent growth in 2014. Thus, increasing the economy by almost 2 percent than the previous years.
Moreover, the refugee crisis has indirectly driven activity in the port of Beirut. Since the war has affected the activity in the Syrian ports of Tartous and Latakia greatly.
The economic crisis affecting the refugees
Syrians who sought Lebanon for a better living are now living in disaster conditions due to the nationwide economic crisis. They are even spotting the similarities between the current events and their country’s own crisis-turned-conflict. While 27 percent of Lebanese are living under the poverty line, More than 75 percent of Syrians in Lebanon live in extreme poverty. The numbers are increasing on both sides as the crisis continues to worsen.
Moreover, The cash assistance provided by the UN can no longer be enough since the prices on the most essential product have increased by double. Moreover, the dollar beg to the Lebanese currency has lost more than 100 percent of its initial value. Furthermore, the market exchange rate of the black market is valuing the Lebanese pound far less favorably than the official exchange rate.
30,000 have reportedly returned to Syria in the last two years, the country still hosts a huge number of Syrians. Moreover, 40 percent of Syrian families in Lebanon receive $27 per person per month which by no means can sustain basic needs in such an economy.
Furthermore, Eligible refugees used to be able to receive aid from the UN and other NGOs in US dollars. However, banks are imposing restrictions on US dollar withdrawals. Thus all refugees must now withdraw it in Lebanese pounds at the official exchange rate. The official rate pegs the US dollar for 1500 Lebanese lira. However, the market rate is currently 8500 for every US dollar. Hence, acquiring daily necessities and paying rent on the camp’s land is now almost impossible.
As always, crises bring out the worst in people. Thus Syrians are witnessing growing racism and harassment. Such incidents along with the financial hardships stir haunting memories.
Furthermore, they are fearing another civil war in the country. When people get hungry then get angry. Thus, they are mirroring their own experience with the current events taking place in Lebanon.
Fearing the worst, some Syrians are considering returning to their home even despite their own ongoing war. Moreover, Facing these unprecedented economic and political pressures, Syrians in Lebanon feel more trapped than ever.
In brief, life in Lebanon for Syrians has always been hard. Though the current crisis is feeling unrest and fear among the refugee communities. Everyone is worried as the situation continues to take a turn for the worse.
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