Syria crisis threatens neighbouring countries
Syrian refugees in Bekaa valley, Lebanon
CAFOD has told MPs that there is no end in sight to the brutal conflict in Syria, and the spill-over of the crisis is threatening the stability of neighbouring countries.
Speaking at a parliamentary briefing on Syria on 25 April, Mike Noyes, our Head of Humanitarian Programmes, told MPs that the levels of suffering and displacement in Syria have outstripped every prediction, and that the crisis is likely to get worse over the coming months.
He said: “All we know suggests the levels of suffering, displacement and refugees will most likely grow. We haven’t seen such a destabilising level of cross-border movement in terms of numbers and impact since the break-up of Yugoslavia.”
According to the UN, more than 1.3 million refugees have fled into neighbouring countries, although, with many refugees unwilling or unable to register, the true figure is likely to be far higher. The Lebanese government recently announced that there were more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon alone.
“Current estimates suggest that by the end of 2013 the population of Lebanon will have risen by 25% due to Syrian refugees,” said Mike Noyes. “This is economically, politically and socially unsustainable but will only change when it is safe for people to return. Aid to the crisis, including from the UK, has to also look at the impact on host countries, before this crisis drags them down.”
Most of the refugees in Lebanon have fled with almost nothing, and are living in overcrowded rented accommodation, in abandoned or unfinished buildings, in temporary shelter such as in schools and public buildings or with host families. Finding money to pay rent is becoming an increasing anxiety for many, as overcrowding and competition for shelter grows.
Although the people of Lebanon have shown enormous compassion in welcoming Syrian refugees, tensions are growing: the population in some Lebanese villages has increased by 40%, and there have been anecdotal reports of a growth in crimes such as robbery and assault.
"What we are seeing is unbelievable"
The UN Refugee Agency is taking up to three months to register people fleeing across the border into Lebanon. Until they are registered, the only help they can get is from organisations like the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, a long-term CAFOD partner.
Father Simon Faddoul, President of Caritas Lebanon, said:
“What we have been seeing is unbelievable. The numbers of refugees are growing in an incredible way. The situation is getting worse. It’s becoming disastrous.
“I appeal to all good-hearted people to please, please listen to the suffering of the Syrian people inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries. We need every bit of help we can get to reach out to these people until they can return to their homes.”
We are supporting Caritas Lebanon in providing food, shelter, medical supplies to refugees, as well as counselling to help people cope with the trauma of what they’ve been through. We are also supporting refugees in Turkey and Jordan, and we are one of only a handful of aid agencies able to work in Syria itself.