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Humanitarian Stories from Lebanon – The Refugee Crisis

Lebanon has often been at the center of Middle Eastern conflicts, despite its small size. The main reason for this being that it borders with Syria and Israel. For the past couple of years, this country has been involved in the Syrian refugee crisis.

A brief history of Lebanon

Lebanon has always been an important commercial hub for the Middle East. It’s ideally located because it borders with Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus is west across the Mediterranean Sea. The region eventually was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1918. After World War I, the empire collapsed and the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon came under the French Mandate of Lebanon. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing a unique political system – confessionalism – a Consociationalism type of power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities.

Despite its small size, the country has developed a well-known culture and has been highly influential in the Arab world. Lebanon hosts approximately 1 million Syrian refugees which amount to around one in five people in the country.

The E.U. is a multinational entity that consists of 500 million people. Since 2015, the E.U. is in turmoil because of the 1 million Syrian refugees who entered its borders just last year from the war-torn country. To put this in perspective, that’s about the same number of Syrian refugees currently in Lebanon, a country of just 4.5 million. According to Amnesty International, it seems that the real refugee crises is taking place in the Middle East where Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt are housing 4.8 million refugees.

The Lebanese government has always kept the door open for Syrian refugees; whoever wanted to enter could come. A compassionate gesture which came with unprecedented difficulties. Considering that the Lebanese government has never signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, this means that there are no international laws which bind Lebanon to deal with the refugees. As a result, Lebanon has decided not to build any refugee camps. Thus, the refugees capable of working must compete with the poor in Lebanon for the country's lowest paying jobs so they can make a living for themselves and their children. This proved to be tough on the local economic infrastructure. School attendance also went up because children of Syrian refugees must also attend school - schools which are already crowded with Lebanese children. Adding more load on an already straining infrastructure.

The refugee crisis has resulted in economic, political, social and religious tensions in Lebanon. Curfews have been put into place in some cities and villages to ensure public safety following attacks on police and members of the military by religious Syrian extremist groups.

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