Syrian refugees in Lebanon: The garbage children in Beirut

Status: 20/06/2022 04:58

Compared to the number of inhabitants, Lebanon has received the most refugees in the world – also from Syria. Due to the economic crisis, children often have to rummage through the rubbish to secure the family livelihood.

By Anna Osius, ARD Studio Cairo

In fact, you hardly see them. A huge garbage bag full of plastic bottles moves under a highway bridge on the outskirts of Lebanon’s capital Beirut. Two thin legs look out from below. Salladin gathered eagerly. Everything people throw away.

He has been leading in the capital’s rubbish bins all morning. “I sell it. I get some money per kilo,” he says. He earns 40,000 lira a day, he says proudly. His little brother corrects honestly: No, it’s 20, 30,000 sometimes 40 on particularly good days. Or 50. “

50,000 lira, the top salary – that would be less than two euros a day. They look very serious when Beirut’s garbage kids talk about market prices, almost adult features in their little dirty faces. They are ten and eleven years old – and refugees from Syria.

1.5 million refugees – with six million inhabitants

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

Zainab is up to the ankles in the trash. Here the children sort what they have collected. Plastic, cardboard and other rubbish pile up behind the poor camp with makeshift tents and huts.

“I take care of the plastic bags. I collect them everywhere, then we pack them in bags and sell them to recycling companies. I get 3,000 or 4,000 lira per kilo. We use that to buy food to satisfy our hunger,” she says.

Economic crisis exacerbates the situation

How long does it take to collect a kilo of plastic bags? Zainab shrugs. She gets the equivalent of less than 20 cents for it. Zainab’s father is actually a sheikh, a respected tribal leader in Syria. Now Sheikh Zakaria has to watch as his family rummages in the trash and gets hungry: “I’m the oldest in the clan, I’m a sheik. I’m ashamed to say we live off the trash, but that’s how it is,” he says. “We are very much affected by the economic crisis in Lebanon. Usually I buy five packets of bread for the family, we are 13 people. Today I can not even afford two packets, it is less than a small flatbread for each one. I have only eat once a day. “

The current economic crisis in Lebanon has made the situation of Syrian refugees even worse. According to the UN, nine out of ten Syrians live in deep poverty, and almost 90 percent of all refugees are dependent on UN aid. The problem: For several years, the Syrians have received their support in Lebanese lira instead of dollars. But inflation is fierce in Lebanon and the currency has lost about 90 percent of its value.

“It is not enough”

Food prices have risen by more than 600 per cent. According to Zakaria, aid per. per capita from the UN is no longer enough for what is absolutely necessary. “It’s not enough. The help is not even enough for oil or a sack of sugar. We cook with gas – and a gas bottle alone costs 500,000 – and then it’s the beginning of the month and we have not eaten anything yet. We live in tents , but we have to pay rent for the place, 350,000, – Electricity costs 500,000, – The money is not enough in front and behind, what should I do? Actually, I can only kill myself because I can no longer help my children. “

His son Salem is just on his way home. The 12-year-old does not go to school, but works for farmers in the fields: picking potatoes and carrying sacks – far too hard work for the little boy.

“It is very difficult to carry the sacks. A sack weighs about 60 kilos,” he says. “Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t. I only weigh 40 kilos myself. My legs hurt after work.”

Salem earns the equivalent of a dollar a day for the tedious work. According to UN figures, at least a third of Lebanon’s Syrian children have never been to school and 28,000 children have to work regularly.

Too hot in summer, too humid in winter

Salem and his siblings only know Syria from stories they have lived in Lebanon for so long. The refugee camp has become their home – even if they do not like it: “In the summer it’s a hell,” says eleven-year-old Shad. “We are all sleeping in one room. We are trying to cool the rooms. The room has no window and our fan is broken.”

Mother Khadischeh, on the other hand, prefers summer: “We can keep the heat out, but winter with rain and snow is a bigger problem. When it snows, we can not sleep. The tent roof collapses. We spend all night digging out of the water and removing the snow from the tent roof, otherwise it will collapse. ”

They want to return to Syria, the parents confirm. But everyone here is afraid of the Assad regime. The sons were to enter the army. And as refugees, the families would be seen as traitors. Her village is now under the control of the regime, her house destroyed.

A little girl trudges through the camp on shaky legs – she has just learned to walk. The little one is called Watan, says her mother, and she smiles sadly: “So Syria is at least a little with us.” Watan means translated: homeland.

The garbage children in Beirut – Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Anna Osius, ARD Cairo, 19.6.2022 kl. 23.58

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