1.6m people have fled their homeland
“At first I was very reluctant to move to Lebanon, I changed my mind a lot but finally I decided to come here. We couldn’t get any food anymore, we couldn’t live our lives, we lost our jobs and we worried that we couldn’t stay alive.” – Samira “Syria, my beloved country, I love you. We will never forget you. We will be back one day.”
These are the words of a poem written by a 12-year-old Syrian girl living as a refugee in Lebanon. One of over 1.6 million people that have fled their home country since the civil war started, her family left in an attempt to find peace across the border. Half of those fleeing are children, left only with the clothes on their backs and as much as they can carry in their arms.
This is the grim reality behind the numbers being presented in the media. Over 100,000 civilians have so far died in the clashes.
Over 430,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan so far, and over 500,000 are finding accommodation in Lebanon, as well as other neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. These numbers are official, however global charity Oxfam estimates them to be much more.
Whole families risk their lives to escape, with the hope that they will find peace and a better life than what was being experienced in Syria. But the relentless influx of refugees has weighed heavily on these neighbouring countries and the reality is that many are faced with is poverty and limited resources once they arrive. The Za’atari camp in Jordan, for example, was built to house 60,000, yet it is now home to more than 170,000 people, and classed as the country’s fourth largest city. Jordan was already one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, before 500,000 refugees descended upon it. Now with summer approaching and signs of disease already evident, the pressure is growing greater than ever to make sure the population has enough sustainable food and water for everyone. With an estimated 8000 still crossing Syrian borders each night, the calamitous effects on the human population in Syria and its surrounding countries have produced an immense aid response around the world.
Media are struggling to convey the situation in Syria at the moment, with fighting between the State and the Syrian rebels making it too dangerous to report from the front lines. Focus has, instead, turned to helping those that have managed to escape the country. This is a struggle as most refugees remain outside of the official refugee system. Many Syrians are worried that by registering as refugees and asking for support from international aid organisations, they will be vulnerable to future repercussions from the Syrian state if they were to return. However, those that are not in refugee camps like Za’atari remain essentially invisible, unable to receive aid such as blankets, water, and tents that will help see them through the foreseeable future.
Syrian refugees, like the 12-year-old poet in Lebanon, are continuing to hold on to the hope that one day they will be able to make the journey back to their home country, and begin building their lives once again.
4.25 million Syrians remain displaced within Syria, unable to go back to their homes, but not wanting to leave the country to which they belong.
Samira is a 45-year-old widow who reluctantly left Syria to find refuge in Lebanon. Her five sons came with her to Lebanon, however two of her daughters went to Jordan, and one has remained behind in Syria. Samira fears for the safety of all her children, especially those that she has been separated from, with no idea when, or if, they will ever be reunited. She is currently living in a one-room shelter of breezeblocks and plastic sheeting, which she shares with 12 other people.