Survey reveals plight of Syrian refugee children

A Syrian woman washes the dishes at an unofficial refugee camp in Lebanon's Bekaa valley. (AFP/File)
Updated 26 June 2019
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Survey reveals plight of Syrian refugee children

  • Based on the report, 55.2 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are under 18 years old ... 30 percent of those children have been injured on the job

BEIRUT: A survey on child labor among Syrian refugees in Lebanon has revealed that 4,592 of the 6,972 children in the study work — and many have been injured while on the job.

The children, aged four to 18, live in refugee camps in Hermel, Baalbek, Central Bekaa and Zahle.

Dr. Rima Habib, chair of the Environmental Health Department at the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) of the American University of Beirut (AUB), supervised the survey conducted by the Ministry of Labor in collaboration with AUB in 2017.

“There are reasons for child labor among Syrians, but we were surprised that 30 percent of those children get injured on the job,” Dr. Habib told Arab News.

“The survey, which began in August 2017 until today’s report, does not mean that things have changed. The situation is still the same, if not worse, and the study was presented to the concerned Ministry of Labor which will fight against this kind of labor,” she said.

Based on the report, “55.2 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are under 18 years old, and out of 938,531 refugees registered at the High Commission for Refugee Affairs, 341,234 of them live in the Bekaa area close to the Syrian border.”

The report describes Syrian refugees’ status in Lebanon as “complicated.” Lebanon does not use the word “refugee” but prefers the term “displaced.” 

Lebanon has not signed the Geneva Convention, which binds states to provide refugees with basic rights. There are also no national laws for the fair treatment of refugees.

The Lebanese security authorities require Syrians to have a sponsor to enter Lebanon and work, and to have a permit costing $200 annually per individual. Many Syrians avoid this and live in Lebanon illegally. 

As a result, Syrians who do not meet the conditions of employment are forced to make their children who are under 18 work since they are less likely to be arrested and investigated.

Based on the survey, 74.8 percent of children work in agriculture, 50.5 percent do not attend school because they are working, 37.8 percent of children are not paid on time, and 43 percent of boys and 41 percent of girls are humiliated while working. Syrian children work in jobs such as waste-picking, construction, shoe cleaning, car washing and mechanics.

The survey shows that 78.8 percent of children work for a Lebanese employer and 19.5 percent for a Syrian employer. About 58 percent said that they give their pay to their parents, and most of them worked in unsuitable professions for children and under harsh conditions.

“The challenges Syrian refugee families face in Bekaa are interlinked with social, political and economic factors and since returning to Syria at this stage will take a long time, it is necessary to work on securing adequate support for the refugees to provide them with a decent life, prohibit child labor, protect them and support their education,” Dr. Habib said.


More Basra water crises unless Iraq government fixes ‘failures’

Updated 31 min 58 sec ago
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More Basra water crises unless Iraq government fixes ‘failures’

  • Nearly 120,000 people were hospitalized last summer after drinking polluted water
  • HRW slammed Iraqi officials as “short-sighted,” saying they had not properly communicated with citizens about the emergency at the time

BAGHDAD: Human Rights Watch on Monday warned of a repeat of last year’s deadly water crisis in Iraq’s oil-rich southern province of Basra unless authorities correct decades of management failures.
Nearly 120,000 people were hospitalized last summer after drinking polluted water, in a mass health crisis that sparked deadly protests against the dire state of public services.
In a damning report, HRW found the generally poor state of water quality was likely compounded by algae that rapidly spread last year in the Shatt Al-Arab waterway that runs through Basra and provides it with its primary water source.
It indicated that the algae, pollution and high salination could together have sparked the mass health crisis.
“These combined failures violate Basra residents’ rights to water, sanitation, health, information, and property guaranteed under international and national law,” it said.
HRW slammed Iraqi officials as “short-sighted,” saying they had not properly communicated with citizens about the emergency at the time, nor released the results of probes in the year since or dealt with underlying causes.
“While solving Basra’s water crisis will take serious planning, time, and money, it is possible to address so long as authorities take their responsibilities seriously,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s acting Middle East director.
“The alternative is deadly.”
The report relies on dozens of interviews with residents of Basra, experts and government officials as well as analysis of satellite imagery.
Those images revealed evidence of oil spills and algal bloom in the Shatt el-Arab and other waterways that contaminated the water which, when consumed, could cause abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
Besides the direct health impact, the water crisis forced families to flee Basra in search of potable water, buy expensive bottled water or keep their children at home if there was no plumbing in schools.
With increasingly scarce water, climate change, pollution and poor water usage, “Basra will suffer from acute water crises in coming years in the absence of strategic solutions,” HRW warned.
It urged authorities compensate those affected and develop comprehensive strategies to prevent pollution and illegal water tapping.
It also said the government should create a health advisory system to keep citizens aware of water quality standards, impending crises and how to deal with them.
In July 2018, mass protests over corruption and government neglect erupted in Basra, swelling in the following weeks and eventually turning deadly, with 12 demonstrators killed.
Iraq is classified as the 12th most corrupt country in the world.