BEIRUT: Youths in marginalized settings in Lebanon, especially in poor areas, Palestinian camps and Syrian refugee gatherings, are facing a future dominated by fear, anxiety and mystery.
This has been proven by a three-year study conducted by the Lebanese Association for Educational Studies, in partnership with the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.
The research team submitted the results of the study in a Zoom conference, attended by Arab News, and revealed the scale of suffering of the youth in Lebanon.
Dr. Kamal Abu Chedid, dean of the Faculty of Human Sciences at Notre Dame University, said: “The answers of the youth regarding their marginalization settings reflected their deep suffering and distress, and especially those of refugees, who believed that family expectations are closer to reality than general expectations, which they considered as wishes and dreams.”
In the past decade, Lebanon was the main Arab country that Syrians resorted to as they fled the war at home.
Lebanon did not recognize them as refugees, but considered them to be displaced people to avoid the recurrence of a past experience when Lebanon received Palestinian refugees over 70 years ago.
Lebanon — home to 6 million people — hosts the highest number of refugees per capita in the world with 865,331 Syrians officially registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to December 2020.
Lebanese authorities have estimated the number of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon informally at 1.5 million, living in camps or gatherings, while others have integrated into society.
Those living in random camps are estimated at around 600,000.
According to a population census in 2017, the number of Palestinian refugees living in camps and gatherings was 174,422 refugees, 7.2 percent of whom were illiterate.
The number of Palestinian refugees between three to 13 years old who received education was estimated at 93.6 percent, and the unemployment rate was estimated at 18.4 percent.
With the deterioration of the living and economic conditions in Lebanon and the collapse of the local currency, the Lebanese youth have been severely affected, leaving over 1 million people unemployed.
Dr. Ghada Jouny, professor of education at the Lebanese University, said: “The Syrian youth (refugees) are deprived of education and job opportunities and are experiencing authoritarianism within their families and are trying to rely on themselves but end up feeling anxious and hopeless, with a negative perception of the bad political situation, lack of education and job opportunities in Lebanon. The Syrian youth do not see a good future for them in Lebanon. They are eating and drinking but are not going forward.”
Syrian youth feared more wars would erupt in the region, Jouny added. “They fear they will be forced to perform compulsory military service in Syria, which makes it hard for them to envision a future for them in their own country.”
The professor also said that Syrian youth dreamt of going back to Syria and getting their old lives back, but feared being forced to return to a country “drowning in corruption” and instead preferred to migrate to Europe, the US, Canada or Sweden.
They were also scared to project their future, said the professor.
Dr. Adnan Al-Amine, a professor at the Lebanese University, considered youths were living in marginalized environments and facing a reality that was too hard and too tight for their expectations. “Immigration has become their utmost ambition for the future. The Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian youth are all feeling the same: Anxiety, fear and mystery dominating their future.”
Professor of sociology at the Lebanese University Dr. Maryz Younes said marginalized Lebanese youth dreamt of immigration, and the 260,000 passports issued by the General Directorate of Public Security until the end of August reflected the way the Lebanese youth saw their future in Lebanon.
“The security situation constitutes a major anxiety factor, along with the state’s weakness and the same politicians remaining in power.”
Lebanese youth were looking to get married without having children or not to get married at all because they were unable to provide for a family in Lebanon. “At the same time, some continue to depend on their parents with a tendency toward the patriarchal culture. Completing studies has become a priority as the youth is seeking immigration, some even thinking of not returning to Lebanon, to be able to live a decent life without losing hope in the future,” Younes added.