Much of the Middle East, including Syria, was covered in heavy snow this week. The weather added to the miseries of 2.3 million refugees living outside Syria and the 6.5 million people displaced within the country.
Human rights organization Amnesty International released a report last week, revealing harrowing details of the freezing conditions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
The “forgotten camp” houses around 20 families in makeshift tents, some of which blew away or collapsed after the snowstorm “Alexa” hit several parts of the Middle East on Wednesday.
Syrians seeking aid in the Bekaa Valley said they do not receive consistent humanitarian assistance from the country’s government since Lebanon allows only the ones set up for displaced Palestinians. In addition, they narrated disturbing details of the treatment from some members of the host community.
“If we go out of the camp, residents insult us verbally. They tell us it’s our fault because we demanded freedom. They say ‘you deserve what is happening to you,’” one woman told Amnesty International.
For now, monthly vouchers from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are the only form of aid that reaches these people in Lebanon. These are used to purchase food and fuel, but sometimes there is not enough to feed all the members of the families.
Much has been said and written about the refugee crisis outside Syria, especially about the Zaatari camp, which is by far the biggest sanctuary for Syrians in Jordan. However, not a lot has been reported about the refugees in other neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey and Iraq.
“The refugees in the Bekaa Valley camp said they felt isolated and forgotten. Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees from Syria, with more than 850,000 registered refugees. The actual number may be higher as the government estimated earlier this year that 1 million Syrians were in the country – equivalent to almost a quarter of Lebanon’s population,” the report cited.
Here are some images from the “forgotten camps” of the Bekaa valley:
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Mohamed Azakir