Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘REFUGEE

A Saudi Kingdom refugee in France (Saad Hariri) re-landed in Lebanon after being ousted in 2011 as PM

Actually Saad was handed the post of political inheritor (Haririyyeh) of his father Rafic Hariri who was assassinated by USA/Israel in 2004, by Bandar bin Sultan.

Note: re-edited of the post of 2014. “A billionaire refugee in France…”

Officially, the one $billion that the Saudi monarch Abdullah extended to Lebanon was meant to be spent on aiding the Lebanese army to confront all the “terrorists activities” spreading in Lebanon.

Tacitly, ex PM Saad Hariri is to be the money distributor of this huge sum and he returned to Lebanon after 3 years of vacations (as he was ousted) in order to personally supervise the spending of the money.

All this money is basically meant to be spend on the election campaign since the Parliament feels too ashamed to extend its tenure again and again on flimsy excuses of “insecurity conditions”. (Yes, Nabih Berry, head of the Parliament for 22 successive years,  and the Godfather of the militia/mafia “leaders“, refused to hold Parliamentary elections)

He had no political experience and knew nothing of Lebanon social structure: He needed 6 months to learn how to form a government and he spent most of his tenure abroad on multiple vacations, doing personal business deals.

A few months ago, Saudi Kingdom extended 3 $billion to France on the ground of providing the Lebanese army the necessary weapons to confront terrorist factions and the capability to maintain security and the shaky status quo of Lebanon political outdated system.

So far, the 3 $billion have evaporated into deep pockets in both Lebanon and France: financial transparency is not a cornerstone in our system.

Probably, France extended part of that that money to the extremist jihadist factions on our border with Syria.

The Nusra and ISIS have occupied our sprawling town of Ersal for 5 days and committed atrocities and killed scores of our soldiers and kidnapped about 40 soldiers.

Rafic Hariri set up the Ponzi scheme for Lebanon since 1994 by continually borrowing money, accumulating Lebanon sovereign debt from $3 bn to $100 bn and doing his best of destroying any productive activities in industries and agriculture. The basis of Rafic reasoning is that USA will erase Lebanon debt as soon as Lebanon sign a “peace treaty” with Israel.

Jamil Berry posted on FB: 

Mon Opinion

La période que traverse actuellement le Liban est extrêmement brumeuse, et de plus en plus illisible. Laissons nos religions aux vestiaires et réfléchissons.

Qu’avons nous comme données récentes ? Trois milliards Saoudiens évaporés? (Aide à l’armée?)

Hariri qui est rentré sous les caméras au Liban. Avec dans ses valises un milliard … Pour ? Tripoli qui s’agite à nouveau?
Ersaal avec ses vrais martyrs de notre armée Libanaise?

Et ses assaillants salafistes qui trouvent malgré tout des Janus parmi la classe politique libanaise pour minimiser, diluer, et démentir s’ils pouvaient ; nos martyrs.

Il se prépare quelque chose d’extrêmement grave je pense taillé à la seule mesure de la survie de l’état d’Israël.

Israel est plus que jamais conscient du droit du peuple Palestinien à son Etat, appuyé en cela par les rues arabes.

Israel est conscient de l’hostilité croissante des peuples des pays limitrophes face à l’injustice dont il fait preuve surtout avec un Embargo sévère et mortifère contre Gaza, et le morcellement incessant de la Palestine par les implantations juives victimes d’une Shoa économique générée par la crise dans laquelle se débattent leurs pays d’origine ( crise qui ne touche pas que les juifs , sauf que israel se propose comme issue en agitant l’étendard de l’anti sémitisme ambiant)

Rajouter à cela que de gisements immenses de gaz et de pétrole son découverts aux larges du Liban et de Palestine

Le Liban entre désormais dans le club des pays frappés par la malédiction du sous-sol. (Huge reserves of gas and oil known and confirmed even during the French mandated colonial power in 1935) 

Un exemple : l’Algérie a un sous sol infiniment riche , la Tunisie pas . Cette dernière connaitra rapidement accalmie et prospérité, la première se débattra toujours.

D’un point de vue purement sécuritaire, Israel a été contraint de rendre le Liban sud a ses Libanais (et sans condition en May 25, 2000) malgré son eau dont il a besoin. ( le prix devenait prohibitif pour israel. Trop de morts , vu le virus Ezbolla (Hezbollah) qui y sévissait)

L’Irak, La Lybie, La Syrie , étaient des menaces sécuritaires pour israel. Ces pays ont été scientifiquement et méthodiquement mis à terre en 3 temps chacun ( observez les 3 temps d’un dromadaire quand il veut se mettre à terre ) sans pour autant cesser de tambouriner qu’il faut que la résistance libanaise dépose ses armes.

Entretenir la faiblesse des pays arabes et les anémier pour les cent ans à venir, passera désormais d’après les stratèges du pentagone et d israel réunis par la semence d’une guerre Suchi ( Sunnites / Chiites) et elle commence à donner ses fruits mortifères. Les printemps se suivent mais ne se ressemblent pas.

Le Liban ”is different ” . Devenu très anglophone, très peu francophone, la France (sa mère adoptive ) en grande difficulté économique ne viendra plus vraiment à son secours car :

1/ Il s’est tourné vers les USA
2/ la France est un pays matérialiste, Laïc. Défendre la chrétienté, lui est vraiment passé de mode.

La guerre sunnite / chiite a déjà commencé dans la région, et je suis intimement convaincu que ces stratèges de l’apocalypse nous diront bientôt qu’il ne faut pas mettre tous les salafistes dans le même sac

Il y aura les bons salafistes: ceux qui se battront contre le Ezbollah , et les mauvais salafistes ceux qui se battront contre l’armée libanaise (sic!)

Plus que jamais au Liban, les politiciens Libanais ne commandent plus sur rien et n’ont de l’autorité que dans la mesure où ils ne l’exercent pas.

Bientôt , même une chatte au Liban, ne reconnaîtra plus ses chatons.

Ah les Chrétiens … J’allais vous oublier : je ne vous pense pas les vrais visés dans l’apocalypse annoncée, vous serez soit des victiles collatérales, soit des victiles de diversion. Dans les deux cas, vous aurez vos ” couloirs humanitaires ”

Déjà que le Liban est couloir en soi . Couloirs dans un couloir : rien de mieux pour couler notre pays.

( Jamil BERRY )

What Baha2 Hariri, Saad Hariri’s eldest brother, confessed of the tight connections among Saudi secret services, Bandar bin Sultan and Walid Jumblat…

Syrian Refugees on Giving Birth in the Desert: ‘I Thought I Was Going to Die’ 

More than 60,000 people are stranded on a remote strip of desert on the far eastern border between Jordan and Syria—two thirds of them women and children.

They’re in the demilitarized zone between Jordan and Syria, a stretch of rugged, sun-baked desert about four kilometers deep, bordered on the north and south by bulldozed earthen embankments, also known as berms.

It’s as inhospitable a place as you can imagine. Yet over the past seven or eight months, it has become temporary home to a glut of Syrians seeking refuge in Jordan, and the parasites who feed on them: smugglers, bandits, and Islamic State militants.

On the southern side, the area is policed by the Jordanian army, who say they have collected evidence—photographs from mobile phones, weapons, and bomb-making material—of Isis supporters and militants living on the berm, scattered amongst genuine refugees.  (So why called demilitarized zone?)

The queue for asylum in Jordan is long, hampered by deep suspicion and lengthy security checks. Humanitarian agencies provide food, water, and some medical care from earthen berm, but soldiers and aid workers do not venture into the demilitarized zone. On the northern, eastern, and western sides there is no order at all as the chaotic settlement sprawls farther by the day.

What we know about life on the berm comes mainly from the testimonies of those Syrians later admitted into Jordan and housed at Azraq refugee camp. And in these accounts, there is a sharp gender divide.

Sat cross-legged in their shelters at Azraq, the men who survived the berm describe a near-Darwinian struggle for survival. Most speak of keeping their heads down in an uncontrolled, increasingly violent community after paying smugglers hundreds of dollars per person to get there. They refer to frequent inter-tribal fighting, an extortionate black market, the bad apples who regularly incite rioting when refugees queue up for food or aid, and a creeping panic that something might happen to their wives, daughters, and sisters. Few are willing to put into words what that “something” might be.

My second dispatch from the wasteland between Jordan and Syria, where 60,000+ people are marooned in the desert.

broadly.vice.com

The women who survived the berm at first have little to say. They look aside and say they didn’t see much: they spent most of their time inside the tent. But over time, the stories start to trickle out: the babies delivered in the desert; the honeymoon spent in darkness; the blind panic as the sound of rioting approaches your tent, and you grab your children and run.

According to internal NGO documents citing data collected by aid workers working in the area, more than 7% of people on the berm are pregnant women—about double the average you might expect in a typical community. The same data shows that as of April, the majority of pregnant women on the berm were in their seventh, eighth and ninth months of pregnancy.

Many of the women nursing new babies at Azraq say they waited until late pregnancy to flee for Jordan, not knowing they’d then spend weeks or months stuck in the desert.

Um Faten, a mother of four now living at Azraq, delivered her first three children in hospital in Hama. Her fourth, a girl named Faten, was born on 15 November in a tent on the berm, delivered by a midwife from Homs—another refugee awaiting entry to Jordan.

The Ruqban (Rukban) border crossing and encampment of Syrian asylum seekers, based on satellite imagery recorded on April 20, 2015. © 2015 CNES / Distribution Airbus DS courtesy of Human Rights Watch

“I thought I was going to die. There was no anaesthesia. No shots,” said Um Faten, shaking her head.

“If the Red Cross sees there are complications in the pregnancy, they usually bring women inside Jordan to deliver. But she’s healthy, look at her. The baby of the berm,” she said.

Days after her all-night labour, Um Faten and her family were admitted to Jordan and given a shelter at Azraq. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Ten days after Faten was born, a cousin went into labour with her sixth child. A vehicle from the International Committee of the Red Cross was present at the time, and the woman delivered baby Mohammad inside it. The two were taken to hospital in Ruwayshid, the closest town to the berm, and then, according to family, returned to the berm. More than four months on, as far as their family knows, they are still in the desert.

As the settlement at Ruqban has grown, the humanitarian response has become better-funded and more organized, with medical staff stationed on the berm most days. Recent antenatal arrivals at Azraq say they were told to register with medical staff at the start of their ninth month of pregnancy in order to be admitted to Jordan pre-delivery on humanitarian grounds. Sahar Hussein is one of those women.

“We spent our honeymoon in a tent,” she said, smiling at her husband, Aamer. The two had been married five months and were four months pregnant when they began their journey from Palmrya to Jordan. They sold their wedding rings to pay smugglers to get them to the berm and to buy a tent as basic supplies.

“My biggest worry was that Sahar would go into labor on the berm, after the doctor left,” said Aamer, holding the couple’s one-month-old baby, Loujan.

Surrounded by a growing number of desperate strangers, Aamer said he was terrified for Sahar’s safety and so hid her from view. “My wife basically spent four months in a tent,” he said.

The couple registered at the start of Sahar’s ninth month and were admitted to Jordan shortly before Loujan was born. By then, mid-March, a network of volunteer midwives had been established and were being equipped by humanitarian agencies to provide care to mums delivering on the berm. But lives were still being lost.

Among Azraq’s newest residents are a father, his six-year-old son and an infant daughter, born after medical staff had left for the night. The children’s mother died during labour for want of medical attention. She is buried on the berm.

Amongst women who have survived the berm, some of the most harrowing stories come from those who managed it alone.

Twenty-four year-old Widad, a widowed mother of three from rural Homs, spent February on the berm with her mother, sister, children, and disabled father.

“We left after Da’esh entered our village. We had one hour to leave or Da’esh would come to our houses. We were totally unprepared, the kids didn’t even have shoes. Our only goal was to get out,” she said.

After a two-day journey south, Widad and her family found a spot in the demilitarized zone close to the border, near some other people from Homs. They built a tent the way most others did, collecting a wooden pallet at the berm, taking it apart and building two posts, and then using scarves to create a roofline. From this, they hung a grey felt blanket they got from the aid workers: home.

Widad would wait in the women’s queue when aid was being distributed at the berm. But food shortages meant that they weren’t always fed.

“We would wait from 11 AM until 6 PM and not get food,” she said. “We lost so much weight, from the second we got to the berm the children were consistently sick and they lost between three and five kilograms each.”

Aid shortfalls were not the only reason Widad and her children often went to bed hungry.

“There was a lot of fighting between tribes on the berm. On the day before we left the berm, different tribal groups were throwing rocks and the camp was up in arms. I grabbed my kids and ran back towards Syria and hid amongst those tents, waiting until after dusk. I went back when it was quiet again,” Widad said, her voice shaking at the memory.

“My children are my weakness.”

As a single mother, Widad is what humanitarian agencies describe as a “woman at risk.” According to the latest NGO data, 21 per cent of women at Ruqban are classified as women at risk.

Women build their own latrines. There was human waste everywhere.

According to data collected by aid workers who service the berm, more than 18% of people at Ruqban are aged four or under, and another 23% are aged five through 11. In a society divided along traditional gender norms, this means women are saddled with the vast majority of childcare.

In a place like Ruqban, where men—if they are present at all—are typically preoccupied with safety-related tasks, women face a near-endless gauntlet of domestic work in medieval conditions.

“The first thing is that there were no bathrooms. Women build their own latrines,” said Um Ahmad, a mother of four from Homs. She spent mid-August 2015 through January 2016 on the berm, and said she had had no idea how difficult conditions would be.

For people used to living in homes with running water and modern plumbing, as most Syrians are, the adjustment to life on the berm was exhausting.

“If you bring water to your tent, you have it. If you don’t, you don’t,” said Um Ahmad.

She said the skin disease leishmaniasis was rampant on the berm, and keeping kids clean was a constant challenge. If Um Ahmad’s family was lucky, they’d receive soap and nappies from aid workers. When supplies ran out or rioting cut distributions short, they’d use what little money they had to buy soap on the black market.

Um Ahmad said she relied on her husband to haul water to the tent, where she would wash her children in buckets provided by aid agencies. Then, listening to the rumble of tens of thousands of strangers, just feet away, she would crouch down, remove her clothes in sections and quickly wash her own body.

Like every woman interviewed by Broadly, Um Ahmad was adamant: she did not feel safe on the berm.

“Never,” she said. “But no matter how bad conditions are on the berm, it’s better than in Syria.”

Displaced Lebanese from Syria: Refugees in their homeland

Halima Zaroubi, a frail 80-year-old woman, breaks into tears when describing what’s happened to her home. “Our houses are gone, our lands have dried up,” her voice cracks. “Everything’s gone.

“We’re from Qusayr. We’ve been there for 60 years, since I got married,” Zaroubi recounts with tears in her eyes.

She now lives in tented settlements on Arsal’s outskirts with other Lebanese families. For many returnees, Syria has been their home for decades, and, as soon as it is safe, it will be again.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, millions of people have been forced from their homes.

 and  posted this June 5, 2014:

Arsal, located in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, has been overwhelmed with refugees

Arsal, (3ersal) located in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, has been overwhelmed with refugees
Syrians are not alone in having to escape the country’s overwhelming violence. Lebanese by birth and by nationality, Zaroubi had been living in Qusayr, a border town in Syria’s Damascus province, for 60 years.
Like tens of thousands of other Lebanese who lived and worked in Syria for decades, Zaroubi and her family were forced to leave and settle back in their native country. But rather than settling back into their native land as citizens, they now live like refugees in their own country.

Zaroubi and her daughter Noha live in a tent in an informal refugee camp in Wadi Hmeid near the Syrian border

Zaroubi and her daughter Noha live in a tent in an informal refugee camp in Wadi Hmeid near the Syrian border

Minimal aid

Hundreds of these families have settled in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, a low income community whose population has more than doubled in size due to the influx of refugees.

Lebanese returnees living in Arsal and its outskirts, many of whom have been there for over two years, received their first food aid package in early May. Around 200 families received food boxes prepared by Lebanese NGO Food Blessed and the group Lebanese for Syrian Refugees.

The food packages, part of the first widespread aid distribution package for Arsal’s returnees in two years, were distributed to the returnees by local partner NGO Shabab lil-Umma.

After displaying his Lebanese identification card, returnee Abdul Malik Hassan Ezzedine collected a cardboard box with enough nonperishable food items for roughly one hundred meals. For him and his six children, the food package will barely last five days.

Unable to access UNHCR support, Lebanese returnees — especially those living in border areas like Arsal — have much less support from the Lebanese government and local and international NGOs

UNHCR, the UN agency responsible for coordinating aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, cannot provide aid to anyone who is a Lebanese citizen.

Palestinian refugees escaping Syria turn to UNRWA, the body created specifically to address their needs in the aftermath of the Nakba.

Lebanese returnees are referred to the Lebanese government’s High Relief Commission (HRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

According to IOM Emergency Coordinator Angela Santucci, HRC and IOM work with various local and international NGOs to assess where returnees are located and what their needs are. IOM and HRC conducted a registration drive between July and October of last year, registering over 17,000 Lebanese returnees (approximately 3,200 households) from Syria who are in need of assistance.

However, in a report about the situation released in December 2013, they estimated that the true number at the time was around 29,000 individuals (roughly 5,270 households). Their expectation is that once you add the number of new arrivals to the non-registered returnees the number will have significantly grown by the end of this year. “Although we haven’t been able to get updated statistics [since October], our projection is that there will be 50,000 [returnees] by the end of 2014,” Santucci said.

The circumstances of Lebanese returnees are closer to those of Syrian refugees — despite some differences — than to the situation of poor Lebanese

Most returnees registered by IOM had been living in Syria’s Homs province, with the next largest number coming from Damascus province.

Fighting in Homs escalated significantly in 2012, driving both Syrians and Lebanese out of their homes. Like Syrian refugees, the largest number of Lebanese returnees settled in the Bekaa and are renting apartments or living with host families.

Around 80 of the registered households live in tented settlements or collective shelters with Syrian refugees; but with so few returnee families officially registered, the number living in tented settlements is likely to be much higher.

Although IOM and its partners in Lebanon had been providing some food, health and shelter aid to returnees, assistance has been halted due to budget constraints. Both returnees and the IOM alike lament the Lebanese government’s lackluster response to the returnees.

“Did the High Relief Commission give you anything at all?” Ezzedine asks his companions, pointing to each one. They shook their heads in turn. “No, no, no. Wouldn’t you expect something from your government if your house got completely destroyed?”

The IOM notes that the Lebanese government’s capabilities have become “severely overstretched” and that returnees’ basic access to resources must be drastically improved. “In the current context, the needs of Lebanese returnees have often been overlooked, either because they aren’t refugees or because there has been a lack of detailed information on their situation,” wrote Santucci in an IOM press release in December 2013.

Different realities

Lebanese returnees in the town of Arsal stand in line to receive food packages

Lebanese returnees in the town of Arsal stand in line to receive food packages

Though displaced by the same conflict, Syrian refugees and Lebanese returnees have had very different experiences.

Unable to access UNHCR support, Lebanese returnees — especially those living in border areas like Arsal — have much less support from the Lebanese government and local and international NGOs.

While registration with UNHCR for Syrian refugees in Lebanon has been continually open since 2011, IOM and HRC have suspended registration for Lebanese returnees due to budget constraints, thereby preventing people not already registered from getting access to what little assistance the agencies have available.

Nor are returnees’ lives similar to disadvantaged Lebanese citizens. The national average unemployment rate hovers around 10% (don’t believe Lebanese official statistics), but the unemployment rate for Lebanese returnees is an alarming 69 percent.

Only 2% of the 9,630 returnees aged between 18 and 64 have regular employment, and nearly 30 percent of returnee families have no wage earners at all, according to a recent IOM assessment. For Ezzedine and other Lebanese returnees in Arsal’s outskirts, the only option for employment is in the town’s quarries, where 12 hours of backbreaking work earns them LL 10,000 (less than $7).

For many returnees, Syria has been their home for decades, and, as soon as it is safe, it will be again

In terms of employment, Lebanese returnees occupy a middle ground between refugee and citizen. While there is nothing legally preventing them from working, there simply aren’t jobs to take.

This is largely due to returnees arriving in Lebanon’s border areas and the Bekaa valley, where jobs are already scarce and infrastructure is straining under the number of refugees. Rather than moving to find work, many returnees are choosing to remain close to Syria so that they can return more easily.

Returnee children also face challenges in resuming their education in Lebanon. According to Santucci, although returnees’ Lebanese identification cards allow them to register with Lebanon’s state schools, they are accustomed to Syria’s Arabic-language school system and curriculum and find it very difficult to adjust to Lebanon’s French and English systems.

A full 85% of returnees own no property at all in Lebanon. And with many returnee families having spent more than 6 decades in Syria, many lack a network of Lebanese relatives or friends on which to rely.

While they are not classed in the same category as Syrian refugees, returnees’ stories are much the same. They arrived in Lebanon with nothing. “There are cases where these people have been living in Syria for so long — for decades — that their vulnerabilities are associated much more to Syrian refugees,” Santucci said.

IOM noted in its December 2013 report that the circumstances of Lebanese returnees are closer to those of Syrian refugees — despite some differences — than to the situation of poor Lebanese.

Their inability to access basic services (what basic services Lebanese “citizens receive?), find employment or be accepted by other Lebanese people is also hampered by people’s perceptions.

Many have Syrian accents and are seen by much of Lebanon’s population as Syrian. “When you’ve been made a refugee from a country where your family has been living for 90 years, you’re in an entirely different situation,” said Ahmad Fliti, deputy mayor of Arsal. Many returnees who have settled in Arsal can trace their roots back to the border town.

Access denied

Lebanese returnees have the same legal status under Lebanese law as other Lebanese citizens

The situation in the small town for both refugees and returnees is growing increasingly dire. The swelling population has placed extreme strain on the town’s infrastructure, including its electrical grids, water tanks and trash disposal services.

There’s frequent shelling in the area and Syrian Air Force planes regularly fly over the town’s outskirts; kidnappings have also become increasingly common. “Our food packages are critical for Lebanese returnees because the security situation in Arsal means international NGOs don’t have a physical presence there,” said Lebanese for Syrian Refugees’ member Roa Abou Zeid.

This was confirmed by UNHCR representative Lisa Khaled who said the agency used to have a bigger presence in the town but, like all other international agencies, they left when shelling over the border became common. While they do still work in Arsal, they are unable to operate in the area when there are evident security concerns. 

Arsal has not gotten any easier to access. It is a historically Sunni town perceived to be pro-Syrian opposition, surrounded by Shiite towns with largely pro-Hezbollah populations.

Lebanese Army checkpoints adorn Arsal’s only access road to the rest of Lebanon. Until very recently, a Hezbollah-operated checkpoint was stationed between the town and the adjacent Shiite-majority Labweh. This has left many within Arsal — refugees, returnees and residents of the town alike — extremely hesitant to travel outside the town.

“How are we supposed to get to Beirut? Our lives aren’t secure if we go there,” said Abdullah, a Lebanese returnee waiting in line to receive food packages. “Our lives aren’t even secure if we go to Labweh.”

Last summer, returnees living in Arsal had to pass through Labweh to register with IOM and the HRC in larger Bekaa cities; the fear of crossing out of Arsal’s borders prevented many returnees from registering with the NGO.

“Even people who are from Arsal don’t leave the town,” Ezzedine said. His calloused hands hold up his Lebanese national identification card with a mixture of pride and disdain: he is happy to be Lebanese, he says, but adds that his nationality has complicated his ability to receive aid.

“What are we supposed to do, eat rocks?” asks Ezzedine, 54, holding up his Lebanese ID card

“What are we supposed to do, eat rocks?” asks Ezzedine, 54, holding up his Lebanese ID card

Mere technicalities

According to IOM’s Santucci, Lebanese returnees have the same legal status under Lebanese law as other Lebanese citizens. There is no legal differentiation between a Lebanese who has lived in Beirut since birth and one who was born in Syria, as long as they both have national ID cards. (Ask any Lebanese if he believes this claim)

“As Lebanese citizens, it is the Lebanese government’s responsibility, from a legal standpoint, to adopt them and settle them in Lebanon with dignity,” said Nabil Halabi, a human rights lawyer and founder of the Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights.

Halabi added that the Lebanese government should not deal with returnees the same way it has responded to the influx of Syrian and Palestinian refugees. “If the Lebanese government considers Syrian refugees to be guests here, then the Lebanese who fled from the border areas should not be considered guests. These are our citizens.” Both he and Arsal’s Fliti said the onus is on the Ministry of Social Affairs to better assess returnee needs and coordinate aid to them.

The ministry itself may finally be making some moves. Ministry representative Hala Helou said the newly formed returnee department in the ministry is now taking on the role of coordinating the government response toward returnees with that of international organizations, much like what it already does for Syrian refugees.

The ministerial department has presented a proposal to the Lebanese cabinet on how to structure the department and address the returnee crisis but, expectedly, there are delays in the ministerial approval. “The cabinet is doing its own thing for a few weeks, and when they approve our proposal, we’ll have clear guidelines for how to work,” Helou said.

IOM and HRC have been facing their own obstacles. Since the first wave of registrations last year, budget constraints have prevented both from registering and assisting other returnees. According to Fliti, rent assistance that IOM provided to 25 of the 200 Lebanese returnee families in Arsal only lasted two months, and much of the aid the group had been giving to other households in the Bekaa was limited due to a lack of funds. Santucci said that IOM expected to do another round of registration soon, depending on donor funding.

HRC itself has been embroiled in corruption charges.

Its secretary general, Ibrahim Bashir, was indicted on May 13 on charges of embezzling over $10 million of public funds. Allegations of corruption within HRC are neither new nor uncommon.

Despite corruption, and despite HRC’s lack of accessible registration centers for many returnees, Santucci says Lebanese returnees are still seeking registration help from the institution. An HRC representative was unavailable for comment on the commission’s upcoming returnee activities.

As donor funding and aid grow increasingly scarce and Syria’s humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, many returnees are left in limbo. A full 75% of those registered told IOM they were unsure when they’d be able to return to Syria, but that they were waiting on “one or several factors” to change before considering a journey back.

What has become clear, however, is that many no longer consider Lebanon their home. “We’re from Qusayr. We’ve been there for sixty years, since I got married,” Zaroubi recounts with tears in her eyes. She now lives in tented settlements on Arsal’s outskirts with other Lebanese families. For many returnees, Syria has been their home for decades, and, as soon as it is safe, it will be again.

When asked whether being in Lebanon makes him feel like a Lebanese national or a refugee, Ezzedine scoffed: “No one’s telling us, ‘You returned to your country, welcome back.’”


adonis49

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