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Syria & Lebanon

‘Their future is in the hands of others’

By Noelle Fitzpatrick, Syria Support and Partner Liaison Officer 
The first sign of the impact of Syria’s civil war on Lebanon is the number of young children selling flowers by the roadway. 
Driving from the airport at night, we see children younger than 10 years of age trying to earn money; selling flowers to survive, but putting themselves in danger from all sorts of exposure at the same time. 
My Lebanese colleague comments on the worsening traffic jams, the increase in police and army check points, and the growing tensions as the Syria crisis continues to spill over into the region. 
Currently, almost 30% of the Lebanese population are refugees. People in this tiny country, just half the size of Munster, are feeling the impact of the rising population on their everyday lives. Rental prices are rocketing, public services are stretched, and the precarious balance between different religious and political communities is tipping
[[{“fid”:”1866″,”view_mode”:”default”,”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“height”:556,”width”:1024,”style”:”width: 1024px; height: 556px;”,”alt”:”A child from one of the 50 Syrian families now living in a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun, close to the border with Syria.”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]
Caption: a child from one of the 50 Syrian families now living in a half-built apartment block near Reyfoun, close to the border with Syria. The families fled Syria due to the war and are now living on a building site. (Photo: Patrick Nicholson / Caritas Internationalis)
Those tensions erupted in twin explosions near the Iranian embassy in Beirut; explosions which I heard. The mobile network jammed and internet access slowed as people scrambled to check on the safety of family and friends. We were all advised not to travel more than was necessary and asked not to make any non-essential calls in order to keep lines free for emergency services. 
Following the attack, the fathers of both men involved turned them in to the authorities. Funerals took place and the many injured received whatever medical supports they could in a health system under strain. Life went on. 
In the days that followed every day brought new security threats, new travel restrictions and new anxieties for local people – all a spill over from the crisis in Syria. 
Everywhere there was a growing sense of tiredness and anxiety. One young professional told me that people in Lebanon cannot plan for the future when the whole country is in danger of collapse. 
Some people just didn’t want to talk about it. They only want to focus on their partners, their children. They don’t know where the ultimate solutions will come from. They feel powerless, believing that their safety and future is in the hands of others and far beyond their own control. 
Many young Syrian refugees are now working on initiatives to support other Syrians. I heard from one young man how he fled his city of Raqqa when radical forces took over. He has deleted from his email and Facebook contacts the friends who chose to fight with these radical groups. He understands that everyone has to make decisions in war, but he does not believe in the way of the gun. His greatest pain is that his mother remains, and is sick. it is too dangerous for him to return there to see her. 
I witnessed the tension that built up, and almost spilled over, between two young men at a Syrian folk music session on a Saturday night in Beirut. One had been detained for months and tortured by the regime, the other had been shot by opposition forces. Colleagues and friends from a Trócaire partner organisation intervened to calm the situation. 
I spoke with taxi drivers, students, young people working in cafes and Syrian business people who wondered how all this death, destruction and suffering has been allowed to happen. Some people feel ashamed, others just utterly confused. 
For all of them, life is on hold. 


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