Thousands of children fleeing Syrian civil war to Lebanon

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abdullah, Thousands of children fleeing SyriaBeirut, Lebanon- “They shot them, they shot my mama and dad,” 9-year-old Abdullah shouted, looking left and right with fear in his face. He would not give his family name.

Abdullah, a Syrian civil war refugee, was begging in front of a coffee shop in northern Lebanon’s ancient coastal city of Batroun, 30 miles from Beirut.

In his scruffy pullover and jeans and tattered sandals, he is the face of a generation of young Syrians who have borne much of the burden of Syria’s 2-year-old conflict. Both of his parents were killed early in the civil war, he said.

A senior source in the Lebanese General Security office, in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that that more than 900,000 Syrian refugees have entered Lebanon since the conflict began, via three legal border crossings and by air into Beirut.

The Syria Regional Refugee Response, a website maintained by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, says about 450,000 of these refugees are registered with the U.N. refugee agency — and half of these are under 18.

Abdullah is typical. He told UPI Next that he lives with nine unrelated refugee children, and a man he wouldn’t further identify, in a small room at the top of a Batroun building. Abdullah wouldn’t show the building to UPI Next or provide details on its location. Abdullah’s group gathers every Friday with other Syrian refugees near the Christian town’s sole mosque.

Abdullah appeared hungry and said he only eats once a day but refused an offer of food. He also said he isn’t enrolled in school.

“I don’t have time but I like to learn,” he said.

“We are extremely worried,” Dana Sleiman, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told UPI Next. She said enrolling Syrian refugee children in school has been difficult, adding these children have significant psychological and social support needs.

She said the agency’s “major concern” is keeping Syrian refugee children off the streets. Begging and child labor are “a reality and it is really alarming,” she said.

“We are talking about 7-year-old children, and I’ve seen them myself working in the Bekaa, north and different areas,” Sleiman said, referring to harvesting and other heavy forms of child labor.

UNICEF contributes to Sleiman’s agency’s work with Syrian refugees by enrolling refugee children in school, she told UPI Next. However, it is “a very big challenge,” she said — only 30,000 Syrian refugee children have been enrolled because of limited classroom capacity and funding.

Refugee parents, she said, fear sending their children to school because of security concerns and transportation costs. Some, she added, are “too depressed” to consider education, or decide it is not worth the effort, since they will soon be back in Syria.

Lebanon’s public schools lack the infrastructure to accommodate young Syrian refugees, Sleiman said. In addition, she said, Syrian students face difficulty catching up with the Lebanese curriculum, which requires fluency in both English and French.

Various U.N. agencies are providing Syrian refugees in Lebanon’s northern and Bekaa Valley regions with food, healthcare, shelter and education, Sleiman said, based on their need.

“Many,” though, “are still living in dire conditions,” in makeshift settlements or collective shelters without adequate water and sanitation, Sleiman said.

Funding isn’t keeping pace with the increasing needs of Syrian refugees, she said.

Referring to Syrian refugees in his country, Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour told UPI Next “We are facing a real crisis and there is nothing much to do about it, since we are unable to differentiate between cases of child exploitation and the ones of real poverty,” adding that authorities are unable to cover “the gap in number of adequate institutions.”

Faour said child beggars had disappeared from Lebanon after a campaign last year but the problem has now become “massive,” with the influx of Syrian refugees.

Faour’s ministry, together with the Interior and Justice ministries, recently launched a “Removal of Street Children” campaign, which led to the arrest of 40 members of a gang that was recruiting homeless children as street beggars and removed 90 Lebanese children from the streets, but Faour said none of the children were Syrian refugee children.

He has asked U.N. officials, the Arab League and others to help Lebanese authorities deal with the Syrian refugee crisis by financing shelters for Syrian children and disabled refugees, similar to those in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq.

UPI

Photo: Abdullah, a 9 year-old Syrian refugee fled to Batroun city in Lebanon. (Christine El Cheikh/UPI )

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12 responses to “Thousands of children fleeing Syrian civil war to Lebanon”

  1. 5thDrawer Avatar
    5thDrawer

    When my friend picked up the abandoned baby on the sidewalk in Tripoli 3 years ago, it was an indicator. Just as when a tree falls into your yard, in Lebanon no-one comes to help. It’s up to you to decide what to do with it – clean it up, or let it rot.
    If you hurt your back cutting and stacking the wood, that’s your fault too.
    If hurt bad enough, you will also lie there and rot for your efforts.

    1. Constantin7 Avatar
      Constantin7

      5th, when your friend picked an abandonned baby on the sidewalk, it was an indicator of what ? The Syrian war had not started yet by then…? But these events happen from time to time whether there is war or not. So what did your friend do with the baby ? Too bad muslim orphanages in Lebanon are not allowed to let people adopt these children and babies (per islamic law – as Mohammad “ordered”, or as muslims believe “his god” ordered him). So many families would give anything to love and nurture a baby or a child, and so many children need the love of 2 parents and yet this alleged religion forbids this free love and caring to an innocent child to take place. What a tragedy ! Yet muslims still believe that God wants to forbid this love and caring, a complete contradiction with Jesus Christ’s message….. Just incredible !

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar
        5thDrawer

        I had written about this at the time … hmmm … more tragedy rolls out since then. I hesitate to write only because it’s so convoluted … but the boy is doing well as can be expected … and looks about as healthy as most 4-hr olds … although is now in danger of starving to death with the one it calls ‘Mama’. ๐Ÿ™
        And as you say, the time was ‘just before’ … but … was there really a date we can put on the calendar to say ‘That’s the day Assad began to kill.’ ?? My indicator was a movement of peoples over a porous border … maybe I shouldn’t have said that. You are right – the one orphanage (Christian-based funding) was overflowing at that time.
        And could I say the boy ‘looks’ Syrian or any of a series of ‘sects-of-Lebanon’?? No. Of course not. I can tell you he’s not circumcised. hehehe .. Thumbs Up for that. ;-))

        (Sure I’ll get dumped on for that line … screw the ones who do – ahead of time. It’s totally unnecessary unless there’s a physical problem, and I see it as the first ‘trauma’ that idiots visit on a defenceless child.)

  2. 5thDrawer Avatar
    5thDrawer

    When my friend picked up the abandoned baby on the sidewalk 3 years ago, it was an indicator.

    1. Constantin7 Avatar
      Constantin7

      5th, when your friend picked an abandonned baby on the sidewalk, it was an indicator of what ? The Syrian war had not started yet by then…? But these events happen from time to time whether there is war or not. So what did your friend do with the baby ? Too bad muslim orphanages in Lebanon are not allowed to let people adopt these children and babies (per islamic law – as Mohammad “ordered”, or as muslims believe “his god” ordered him). So many families would give anything to love and nurture a baby or a child, and so many children need the love of 2 parents and yet this alleged religion forbids this free love and caring to an innocent child to take place. What a tragedy ! Yet muslims still believe that God wants to forbid this love and caring, a complete contradiction with Jesus Christ’s message….. Just incredible !

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar
        5thDrawer

        I had written about this at the time … hmmm … more tragedy rolls out since then. I hesitate to write only because it’s so convoluted … but the boy is doing well as can be expected … and looks about as healthy as most 4-hr olds … although is now in danger of starving to death with the one it calls ‘Mama’. ๐Ÿ™
        And as you say, the time was ‘just before’ … but … was there really a date we can put on the calendar to say ‘That’s the day Assad began to kill.’ ?? My indicator was a movement of peoples over a porous border … maybe I shouldn’t have said that. You are right – the one orphanage was overflowing at that time.
        And could I say the boy ‘looks’ Syrian or any of a series of ‘sects-of-Lebanon’?? No. Of course not. I can tell you he’s not circumcised. hehehe .. Thumbs Up for that. ;-))

  3. Constantin7 Avatar
    Constantin7

    This is really a tragedy for these children. Can’t the church pick some of these children with their families and put them in convents and feed them, they just need a place to stay and some food. We have so many empty (or almost empty) convents in Lebanon. I am thinking of one in the chouf area (Iklim el-kharroub) a Grec-Catholic convent (Deir El-Mkhaliss), a huge one that can fit many families. Of course they will have to be structured and given strict guidance on what they can do or not do, in order not to disturbe the life of the people and priests already living in these convents. My heart just breaks seeing the picture of this 9 year old boy….

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      Nice idea Constantin … the problem is trying to find someone with the will, the money, and the balls to say ‘It does not mean I am picking sides if I save the life of a child. Please don’t shoot.’
      YES, that’s how screwed up they are in ‘sectarian’ thinking.

  4. Constantin7 Avatar
    Constantin7

    This is really a tragedy for these children. Can’t the church pick some of these children with their families and put them in convents and feed them, they just need a place to stay and some food. We have so many empty (or almost empty) convents in Lebanon. I am thinking of one in the chouf area (Iklim el-kharroub) a Grec-Catholic convent (Deir El-Mkhaliss), a huge one that can fit many families. Of course they will have to be structured and given strict guidance on what they can do or not do, in order not to disturbe the life of the people and priests already living in these convents. My heart just breaks seeing the picture of this 9 year old boy….

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar
      5thDrawer

      Nice idea Constantin … the problem is trying to find someone with the will, the money, and the balls to say ‘It does not mean I am picking sides if I save the life of a child. Please don’t shoot.’
      YES, that’s how screwed up they are in ‘sectarian’ thinking.

  5. Bunch of crap, You can’t even adopt these poor kids unless your (a) Muslim (b) atleast 18 years older then the child. (c) you get approval from a religious syrian court. What kinda crap is that? These kids are starving many shell shocked and many so messed up mentally from the war they will never fully recover. So lets just leave them in a refugee camps where they are lucky to get fed once a day and exposed to god knows what. This is horrible and wrong, wrong on every level and inhumane. These children with out moms and dads and exstensive family should be allowed to be adopted around the world by who ever is researched to be capable of taking care of them and giving them a good life with out fear or abuse. Im christian and have two kids i would adopt a syrian child and you know what i would not have a problem continueing to teach the child of his heratige and continueing his Islamic faith if thats what the child wanted and was old enough to say so. I personally wouldnt change my faith but im am comfortable in my faith to accept others faiths. So from that perspective I understand the guidelines in place to protect these chidlren but leaving them there in refugee camps to be exposed to who know what is not cool.

  6. Bunch of crap, You can’t even adopt these poor kids unless your (a) Muslim (b) atleast 18 years older then the child. (c) you get approval from a religious syrian court. What kinda crap is that? These kids are starving many shell shocked and many so messed up mentally from the war they will never fully recover. So lets just leave them in a refugee camps where they are lucky to get fed once a day and exposed to god knows what. This is horrible and wrong, wrong on every level and inhumane. These children with out moms and dads and exstensive family should be allowed to be adopted around the world by who ever is researched to be capable of taking care of them and giving them a good life with out fear or abuse. Im christian and have two kids i would adopt a syrian child and you know what i would not have a problem continueing to teach the child of his heratige and continueing his Islamic faith if thats what the child wanted and was old enough to say so. I personally wouldnt change my faith but im am comfortable in my faith to accept others faiths. So from that perspective I understand the guidelines in place to protect these chidlren but leaving them there in refugee camps to be exposed to who know what is not cool.

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