Syrian refugees in Lebanon: the rubbish of Beirut’s children

Status: 06/20/2022 04:58 AM

Compared to the population, Lebanon has received the largest number of refugees in the world – also from Syria. Because of the economic crisis, children often have to rummage through the garbage to ensure the family’s livelihood.

Written by Anna Osius ARD Studio Cairo

In fact, you hardly see them. A huge garbage bag filled with plastic bottles moves under a bridge on a highway on the outskirts of the Lebanese capital, Beirut. Two thin feet peeking from below. Saladin eagerly gathered. Whatever throws people away.

He’s been looking at trash cans in the capital all morning. “I’ll sell that,” he says. “I get some cash for every kilogram.” He proudly says that he earns 40,000 lira a day. His little brother honestly corrects: No, it’s 20, 30,000 sometimes 40 on particularly good days. or 50.”

50,000 lira, the highest salary – less than two euros per day. They look very serious when the rubbish kids in Beirut talk about market prices, and the features of adults in their dirty little faces. They are ten and eleven years old – and they are refugees from Syria.

1.5 million refugees – six million people

A few dozen kilometers, towards the Syrian border – in the Bekaa Valley: this is where most of the Syrian refugees live. Lebanon received 1.5 million Syrians in recent years, and these are only official numbers. The number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher – in a country of only about six million people. Measured by its population density, Lebanon has received the largest number of refugees in the world.

Zainab reaches his ankles in the trash. Here the children sort what they have collected. Behind the slum of makeshift tents and huts, plastic waste, cardboard and other rubbish piles up.

“I’m responsible for the plastic bags. I collect them everywhere, then we pack them in bags and sell them to the recycling companies. I get 3000 or 4000 lira per kilo. We use this to buy food to satisfy our hunger,” she said. Says.

The economic crisis is exacerbating the situation

How long does it take to collect a kilogram of plastic bags? Zainab shrugs her shoulders. You get the equivalent of less than 20 cents for it. Zainab’s father is actually a sheikh and a respected tribal leader in Syria. Now Sheikh Zakaria has to watch his family rummage through the garbage and starve: “I am the sheikh of the clan, I am a sheikh. I am ashamed to say that we live from garbage, but that is how it is,” he says. “We are very affected by the economic crisis in Lebanon. Usually I buy five packages of bread for the family, we are 13 people. Today I can’t even buy two packages, that’s less than a small flatbread for each one. I only eat once a day.”

The current economic crisis in Lebanon has made the situation of Syrian refugees worse. According to the United Nations, nine out of ten Syrians live in extreme poverty, and nearly 90 percent of all refugees depend on UN aid. The problem: For several years the Syrians have been receiving their support in Lebanese pounds instead of dollars. But inflation is rampant in Lebanon and the currency has lost nearly 90 percent of its value.

“It’s not enough”

Food prices rose more than 600 percent. According to Zakaria, per capita aid from the United Nations is no longer sufficient for basic necessities. “It is not enough. The help is not even enough for oil or a bag of sugar. We cook with gas – and a gas bottle alone costs 500 thousand – and then the beginning of the month and we have not eaten anything yet. We live in a tent, but we have to pay the rent of the place 350,000. The cost of electricity 500,000. The money is not enough front and back. What do I do? In fact, I can only kill myself because I can no longer help my children.”

His son Salem has just come home. The 12-year-old does not go to school, but works for the farmers in the fields: picking potatoes and carrying sacks – very hard work for a skinny boy.

“The bags are very hard to carry,” he says. “The bag weighs about 60 kilos.” “Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I don’t. I weigh only 40 kilograms. My legs hurt after work.”

Salem earns about a dollar a day for his hard work. According to UN figures, at least a third of Syrian children in Lebanon have never gone to school, and 28,000 children have to work regularly.

Very hot in summer and very humid in winter

Salem and his brothers know Syria only from the stories, they have been living in Lebanon for a long time. The refugee camp has become their home — even if they don’t like it: “In the summer there’s hell,” says 11-year-old Shad. “We all sleep in one room. We try to cool the rooms. The room has no window and the fan is broken.”

On the other hand, the mother prefers the summer chirping: “We can stand the heat, but winter with rain and snow is a bigger problem. When it snows, we can’t sleep. The roof of the tent collapses. We spend the whole night digging. And take out the water and remove the snow from the roof of the tent or else it will collapse.” .

The parents confirm that they want to return to Syria. But everyone here is afraid of the Assad regime. Sons should join the army. And as refugees, families would be seen as traitors. Her village is now under regime control, her house is destroyed.

Little girl walking in camp on trembling legs – she just learned to walk. The girl’s name is Watan, her mother says, smiling sadly: “Syria at least a little with us.” Homeland The translation means: home.

Children of Beirut rubbish – Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Anna Osios, ARD Cairo, 19.6.2022 11:58 p.m.

Leave a Comment