Syrian refugees in many parts of the country are facing evictions from their homes, unable to pay the rent, and resorting to desperate measures to cope with the severe winter conditions amidst soaring fuel and food prices.
In January alone, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) received 56 requests for support by Syrian refugees facing evictions in different areas in Lebanon. In 2021, the organization received over 800 such cases. Overall numbers are likely much higher. In the last three months of 2021, NRC also received requests for cash support from 5,785 Syrian refugees who could not afford to pay rent.
“The struggle that refugees in Lebanon have to live with this winter is beyond imagination. The desperate measures they have to take to keep their children warm sadly reflect the collective failure to find a solution to this misery,” said Carlo Gherardi, NRC’s Country Director in Lebanon.
Some refugees have been evicted multiple times from their homes.
“The first time was the hardest because it took us some time to find a new place, so the owners assaulted my husband. The scars on his back are still visible,” said Safa, who has been evicted four times with her husband in the border town of Arsal.
Exorbitant fuel and food prices have forced refugees to make do with cheaper, often harmful, means to heat their homes.
“I searched all over the place and all I could find were some tires,” said Safa. “I woke up suffocating and my voice is hoarse because of all the toxic fumes we inhaled all night.”
Winters are particularly harsh in Arsal. The town is over 1,500-metre high and is used to heavy snowstorms. The situation for thousands of refugees in tents has been made worse in recent years after a government decision in 2019 to demolish concrete walls higher than one meter to prevent “settlements becoming permanent shelters.”
Demolitions have continued this winter. Ahmed, a father of three, was ordered to knock down the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room in his tent and use plastic sheets instead.
“They said it was prohibited to divide the tent into rooms. We are particularly worried about demolishing this one because the wind blows through the kitchen, which also gets flooded during winter,” Ahmed told NRC.
NRC is urging international donors to step up support for Lebanon’s Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese whose struggle will not stop with the end of winter, particularly with no end in sight to the unprecedented economic crisis.
“Like every winter, refugees will emerge from the season exhausted, sick, and under a mountain of debt. The international community, donors, and the Government of Lebanon must take urgent action to prevent his vicious cycle of poverty and desperation,” said Gherardi.