Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Syrian refugee crisis is aggravating old tensions in Lebanon

Once a sanctuary for refugees, Lebanon is now divided down sectarian lines in how it reacts to those fleeing Syria

Chris Doyle, Wednesday 7 March 2012

".....Since last April, hundreds have crossed the border, fleeing the Assad regime's oppression. By this month there were just over 7,000 UN-registered refugees in northern Lebanon, with thousands living unregistered in the hills and in Tripoli.

As the Syrian regime "cleansed" Bab Amr in Homs, another 2,000 to 3,000 fled across the border, joined by others following the Syrian army's shelling of towns such as Al Qusayr near the border on 4 March.

The refugees had to walk for days in freezing conditions, evading landmines and regime forces who shelled one bridge used to cross into Lebanon at Qusayr.

They arrive traumatised by the horrors of what they left behind. Most families have lost loved ones and are terrified of going back. One refugee I met during my visit had had to be dragged injured by his friends across a minefield. Refugees from Tell Kalakh, close to the border, told me that their houses had either been taken over or destroyed since they left.

The effects on children have, as ever, been the most dramatic. In a run-down apartment in Tripoli, Ahmed, a four-year-old boy from Homs, came up to me and said: "All I can hear is the tanks firing outside my house.".....

These refugees need and deserve our support. In Tripoli, doctors tell me that they cannot cope with the injured and require help now. The international community could do little to help the people of Homs throughout the shelling of Bab Amr, but they can at least ensure that survivors of that terrifying ordeal can live in dignity in Lebanon with their rights respected. So far, international governments have done precious little."

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