Syr­ian refugee chil­dren are the bread­win­ners

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT -

Thir­teen-year-old Ali Ra­jab is on his feet an av­er­age of 12 hours a day, clean­ing, fill­ing per­fume bot­tles and help­ing sell mo­bile phones at the shop in Beirut where he works.

Still, he prefers it to his pre­vi­ous, more phys­i­cally de­mand­ing jobs, which in­cluded even longer hours push­ing a fruit and veg­etable cart and mak­ing su­per­mar­ket home de­liv­er­ies.

Ra­jab has been work­ing since he ar­rived in Le­banon two years ago af­ter flee­ing war in his Syr­ian home­town of Aleppo with his par­ents and six sib­lings.

More than 1.1 mil­lion Syr­i­ans have sought refuge here since the start of the 2011 up­ris­ing, more than half of them chil­dren.

The UN’s chil­dren agency, UNICEF, says there are 2.8 mil­lion chil­dren out of school in the re­gion, and child refugees are par­tic­u­larly at risk of ex­ploita­tion and abuse, with large num­bers hav­ing no choice but to go to work.

They sell flow­ers and other trin­kets on the street, they work as shoe shin­ers and in con­struc­tion and other jobs.

“I like my new work be­cause it is easy and does not re­quire much phys­i­cal ef­fort, and I am shel­tered from the sum­mer heat and win­ter cold,” said Ra­jab, who earns about $8 a day - or $250 a month.

Some, like 15year-old Mo­han­nad Al Ashram, are forced to be­come bread­win­ners for their fam­i­lies. His fa­ther died two years ago in Syria from an ill­ness, and since ar­riv­ing in Le­banon two and a half years ago, he has worked at a small su­per­mar­ket to pay the rent for the tiny apart­ment where he and his mother and three sis­ters live.

“Some­times I get very tired but I sol­dier on,” he said. “All I think about is my work now.”

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