Saturday, June 22, 2013

“Twice Refugees”

Shatila Camp, Beirut
The already crowded refugee camps in Lebanon are straining under the influx of thousands of Palestinians (and Syrians) fleeing from the civil war across the border.  Last week my friend Abu-Mujahed told me that Shatila camp in Beirut is coping with more than 500 new refugee families from Syria – many of them exiled for the second time after losing their homes in Palestine in 1948.

Khaireddin in front of the Kawash House in Miye Miye Camp: the Kawash family, now scattered all over the world, were exiled from Mayroun village in what isnow northern Israel
Khair with his cousin Mustafa Kawash, a "double refugee" from Homs in Syria
 The situation is similarly dire in other elsewhere. In the very small Miye Miye refugee camp in Sidon I was told by Khalid Danaan, the head of the Popular Committee in the camp, that there are 375 refugee families. Aid is coming from the UN, some NGO’s and Lebanese organizations, especially Hezbollah. 
Khalid Danaan, head of the Miye Miye Popular Committe
However, Sunni extremists in the nearby (and larger) Ein al-Helwe Camp have made a show of rejecting Hezbollah charity on sectarian grounds, even burning some of the donated food.
‘Double refugees’ strain UNRWA resources as numbers surge The courtyard of the U.N.-run Yarmouk primary school in Burj al-Barajneh was packed, not with students blithely running in between classes, but with newly arrived Palestinian refugees from Syria… “The people came in large numbers all at once, it was chaotic,” said Mohammad Khaled, UNRWA’s chief officer for all camps in and around the Beirut area… The number of Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon reached 61,500 this month, of whom women and children make up the majority. By December, their numbers are expected to reach 80,000.
Palestinians in Syria find themselves displaced again Palestinian refugees uprooted by the worsening civil war feel far from welcome in neighboring Lebanon. As refugees in Syria, they lived in camps and lacked citizenship, but they had built lives, established homes, held down jobs and were generally regarded to have the highest standard of living of any of the region’s more than 4 million Palestinian refugees. Now that they have been uprooted again, they find themselves with nothing in a country whose own history of conflict with Palestinians means they are far from welcome. Syrian Palestinians “have gone from catastrophe to catastrophe,” said Ahmed Abu Arab, 62, using the Arabic word “nakba,” which Palestinians have adopted to refer to the 1948 exodus.

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