Lebanon(MNN) –Syrian refugees who found safety in Lebanon now fear the future.
On July 1, a government decision went into effect to dismantle “semi-permanent structures” in eastern Lebanon. That could leave tens of thousands homeless.
Nuna of Triumphant Mercy Ministries in Lebanon explains that this order intentionally puts “emotional pressure on people just to let them feel that they can’t settle here, they can’t settle in Lebanon, and this is not a permanent place.” She says Lebanon is toughening enforcement of work and housing rules on its more than 1 million Syrian refugees.
Pressure to return to Syria intensifies
Lebanese politicians have also ramped up their calls for the Syrians to leave. Nuna says, “They’re pushing, they’re pressuring so that people just feel unsettled.” However, the approach creates new trauma.
Remembering the reason why they fled Syria in the first place, she says, “Now there’s security to be here (safe in Lebanon) and being afraid of moving out (going back home) and just being arrested again or beaten. It’s reviving the trauma that they already felt two years ago when they left Syria.”
Going home isn’t an option, either. Authorities arrest young men or press them into military service and send them back out to war. For them, the time spent in the camps is a waiting game.
Uncertainty doesn’t stop with housing issues, either, adds Nuna. It’s a season of change, and insecurity is everywhere. “I can see all the kids are more nervous because people are talking about it at home where the parents have been laid off jobs. There are raids everywhere.”
Another element to consider is that refugees have no legal status in Lebanon; therefore, without papers, they can’t legally work. With no official refugee camps, land the refugees settle on comes with monthly rent, as do utilities. Desperate refugees find day labor and get paid ‘under the table.’
With the raids increasing, Nuna says, “People who are working anywhere now– they are afraid of being caught. I have people that are afraid of passing through a checkpoint, because checkpoints are just popping up everywhere, and people are arrested.”
The search for solutions in Lebanon
One aspect of Triumphant Mercy Ministries in Lebanon focuses on kids through four education centers and numerous summer camps. They bring the promise of the Gospel–in word and deed–to people they serve, but the battle to see God’s hope in dark places is real.
Already, Nuna says the tension of the unknown is palpable. “It’s that they can feel it at home, they can feel the trauma, they can feel the heaviness, and the fear is a new fear that is rising. I can sense it with the kids. I can sense it with older adults too.” Some families packed up and found more remote areas to resettle, just to avoid checkpoints and stay under the radar.
“There needs to be a solution,” Nuna states, “which will give amnesty to people that fled because they don’t want to be part of the war. There needs to be a financial solution. Now, money cannot go into Syria. There’s no rebuilding. There’s no infrastructure happening.”
That’s easier said than done. Lebanon faces economic austerity measures as its economy weakens. Domestic issues take precedence right now as other items that ratchet the tensions throughout the Middle East.
Hope in dark places
It comes down to this: the solution will be supernatural.
“We’ve tried for hundreds of years, and it never happens. The only prayer is that the God of peace will just come and bring peace, that there will be a solution. There will be creative ideas of bringing the kingdom in, and that people will turn to God saying, ‘I can’t do anything about it,’ and that they will see Him, they will find Him. He said, ‘those who will look for me will find me.’”
Header photo courtesy of EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations