Refugees exposed to freezing conditions in Lebanon

20 January 2015

Refugees exposed to freezing conditions in Lebanon

From 9th to 12th January SP Member of Parliament Sharon Gesthuizen visited Lebanon, a country in which, to the normal population of 4.5 million must now be added 1.6 million Syrian refugees, many of them living under wretched conditions. ‘I travelled with the Refugee Foundation to a number of places including Bekaavallei in the east of Lebanon,’ Gesthuizen explains. ‘What we encountered there was unbelievably sad. It had been snowing really hard and the storm kept up during our visit. I’m extremely concerned about these refugees. They need urgent help to be able to protect themselves against the cold.’

The camps where the refugees are staying have very few facilities. The tents frequently collapse in heavy snow falls, for instance, and they have no real floors, as a result of which people are sleeping on wet clothes and wet sheets. In the last few weeks at least six people have frozen to death, four of them children. ‘I hope that we in the Netherlands can continue to show our solidarity with these defenceless people,’ says Gesthuizen. The fundraising action which the SP, together with three other parliamentary parties - Labour, Green Left and D66 – organised around Christmas, raised about €100,000.

Visits were also paid to refugees in Beirut, where the big problem is housing and the lack of any chances of earning some money for sufficient food and needed medical care. Syrian adults are banned by the Lebanese government from working, unless they are sponsored by a Lebanese citizen or firm. ‘Many children, sometimes as young as three years old, are forced therefore to work nights on the street,’ says Gesthuizen. ‘Of course this means they are exposed to great risks.’ International aid organisations are attempting to supply aid here too.

In the SP’s view aid within the region is the best solution but the Netherlands must also try to offer a place in our own country to the most vulnerable people, such as single mothers with children. As things stand only 250 Syrian refugees are receiving such help. Other countries, such as Germany, have been much more generous. ‘The alternative is a whole generation of neglected, vulnerable Syrian children,’ says Gesthuizen. ‘That seems to me, from every point of view, the worst possible outcome.’

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