’I need a blanket’: Lebanon winter storm batters refugee tents

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Syrian refugee children stand near tents at a makeshift camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon January 9, 2019. (Reuters)
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This picture taken on January 9, 2019 shows a Lebanese flag flying on a dyke amidst crashing waves on the shote of the Lebanese capital Beirut's al-Manara promenade. (AFP)
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A Syrian refugee woman holds her baby as she stands in front of her tent at a makeshift camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon January 9, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 09 January 2019
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’I need a blanket’: Lebanon winter storm batters refugee tents

  • “This is the worst we’ve seen in years,” Abdallah Mokdeh said in the border town of Arsal

BEIRUT: At a makeshift camp in the Lebanese town of Arsal, refugees are burning their clothes trying to ward off the harsh cold as storms flood their tents.
“We have no fuel at all. People are tearing up clothes, burning plastic, whatever they can find to get warm,” Abdallah Mokdeh said in the border town.
“This is the worst we’ve seen in years.”
Since 2011, more than a million Syrians have fled the war at home to Lebanon, where aid agencies say most live in severe poverty. Tens of thousands are in Arsal near the hills at the border with Syria.
“The roads are blocked. We called an ambulance and it did not come,” said Mokdeh, a refugee who acts as a caretaker for the rows of tents pitched closely together on a patch of earth.
Floods ruined mattresses and destroyed tents, forcing some people to move in with their neighbors. Many were sick or elderly. Some tents already housed three families, he said.
“The snow, the cold have no mercy.”
Mahmoud Hakouk, a 60-year-old Syrian man at the same site, has struggled to stay dry. “I need a blanket,” he said, shivering. “I swear to God I don’t have enough to buy bread.”
The UN refugee agency said high winds, rain and snow had “heavily impacted” more than 150 informal settlements, including some that were fully flooded or collapsed. A child was reported missing, it said on Wednesday.
The heavy storm inundated hundreds of tented settlements across Lebanon and left youngsters stranded in freezing temperatures, charity Save the Children said.
“It’s miserable here, we have tents that collapsed because of the intense wind,” said Radwan Raad, standing in the snow at another ramshackle camp in Arsal.
Many of the camp’s residents did not receive UN aid and could not afford food every day, he added.
Helem Amer, 85, wrapped herself in a blanket in her flimsy shelter at that camp. “I can’t get up on my own, there’s no fuel, nothing, nobody to help.”


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 56 sec ago
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”