Palestinian refugees: escape war in Syria, suffer exclusion in Lebanon

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Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon. File photo

ARA News 

Beirut, Lebanon Like other Syrian refugees, Palestinians of Syria fled the war-torn country to Lebanon. However, their pain seems deeper; Palestinians do not have equal rights with other Arabs in the Arab world.

Today, Palestinians are banned from returning to Lebanon if they visit Syria.

New Refuge

Many Palestinians who lived for decades in Syria had no choice but to head to Lebanon.

Abu Mohammed, 45, has recently arrived in Lebanon after escaping his house in Yarmouk Camp in Damascus.

“We (Palestinians) are doomed to live in war zones. We are doomed to suffer humiliation,” he told ARA News.

“Our houses were destroyed in the Yarmouk, and we lost our jobs. My family had no other choice than crossing the borders into Lebanon,” Abu Mohammed said.

Ahmed Zaher, 52, is another Palestinian who lived for years in Barza neighbourhood in Damascus, before escaping the mounting violence there and entering Lebanon.

“Previously, we used to demand Arabs help us return to Palestine. Now, we demand the return to Syria and call on Arab countries to protect this country and help bring back the security. We are tired of wars; we just want to live like other human beings,” Zaher told ARA News.

“Shall we grieve for our second big displacement? Or rather grieve for all Syrians whose voices remained unheard? We appeal now only to God, after being continuously disappointed by regional and international decision-makers,” Zaher said.

Wondering about the future of Palestinian refugees, Abo Imad, 32, said: “When are we going to be treated like human beings, not mere refugees?”

Life in Lebanon 

“Palestinian as well as Syrian refugees in Lebanon suffer under hard living conditions due to the costly life and discriminative job opportunities,” Abd al-Naser, a Palestinian refugee who left Syria to Lebanon, told ARA News.

Abd al-Naser pointed out that the fact of being a Syrian or a Palestinian in Lebanon minimizes the chance of finding a job to make a living.

“In Lebanon, there is an explicit discrimination. The Lebanese employers do not take your expertise or skills into account, but rather your sectarian affiliation is what matters,” Abd al-Naser said.

The Palestinian university graduate Monis commented on the same issue, saying: “I dream of having any  job opportunity here. I do not even want to work with my pedagogy certificate; I left it in Syria as I know I am a refugee with no rights here in Lebanon.”

Amani, another Palestinian who graduated from Damascus University, before being obliged to leave Syria due to the deteriorating security situation, told ARA News: “I came to Lebanon with my family. My father is dead. I am the sole support for the family. I work as an accountant but for a minimum wage, which is barely enough to help us survive.”

Abu Maree, 47, has recently left Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees in Damascus and came to Lebanon.

“In Syria, we used to have a good living conditions. Unfortunately, the ongoing war forces me and my family to come to Lebanon,” Abu Maree said. “I’ve always heard about the hard situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but now I’m experiencing the same. We are deprived of our basic rights as human beings.”

“It is difficult even hard to find a proper accommodation for my family. Are we going to live like this for the rest of our life?” Abo Maree wondered.

Stuck in Lebanon 

Many humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International, condemned Lebanon’s ban of Palestinian refugees who left Syria to re-enter Lebanon to visit some family members in Syria. However, nothing changes.

The Palestinian refugee Mohammad Ali, based in southern Beirut, told ARA News: “Because of this decision, I lost my job. I was transporting goods between Damascus and Lebanon. Now I cannot do that anymore.”

“We are stuck in Lebanon. We cannot visit our families in Syria, who are in urgent need for basic supplies. I used to being them some food and medicine, but it’s not possible anymore,” said Atef Ahmed.

The 42-year-old Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, Um Tahani, said: “We had rights in Syria, and the Syrian people were always friendly to us, but here in Lebanon it is different.”

Looking for a Palestinian Solution

Palestinians of Syria who talked to ARA News emphasized “Being a refugee is not a solution”. Like other human beings, they have a land and a home.

Palestinians live in unstable countries or in countries that do not respect Palestinian refugees and their needs.

Many Palestinians believe that the rich and powerful Arab countries are able to find a permanent solution for their cause.

“We waited for decades hoping that the Arab governments would help us either return home or obtain civil rights in their countries, but in vain,” Tahani concluded.

 

Reporting by: Hussam al-Zeer

Source: ARA News

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