FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Flood of Refugees

Beirut.

Rabih Shibli and his team from the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service at the American University of Beirut heard about the garage through their close contact with various relief organisations. Mr. Shibli is an energetic man, impatient with posturing. He sees a problem and seeks results. Mr. Shibli’s team, including a young architect Ali Adnan Basma, raised funds from individuals and from charities such as Secours Islamique and Medrar Foundation in order to refurbish the garage. The point was to “make the inside livable”, he said. In a matter of months, their team was able to upgrade the garage so that the refugees could live a less precarious life.

Almost seven hundred thousand Syrian refugees are now in Lebanon, a state weakened by a long civil war, an Israeli occupation and constant threats of the return of both. “There is always that shadow,” says the writer Sahar Mandour, whose novels shine a light onto contemporary Lebanese society. The
15125371Lebanese state, like that of Iraq and Jordan, is not able to manage the crisis by itself. It has come to rely on the U.N. and its specialised agencies to coordinate and even manage refugee relief.

Even the U.N. is overwhelmed. One problem is funds. Much is promised, says the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), but little makes it to the ground. The Regional Refugee Response Plan calls for $3 billion toward relief, but only 37 per cent of it has been funded. For humanitarian assistance inside Syria, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has asked for $1.4 billion but has only been promised 43 per cent of that amount. The funding pledges made at the Kuwait conference in January have yet to materialise. The humanitarian effort is “hampered by lack of funding”, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Because of this, the World Food Program has had to “reduce the size of its food parcels to keep pace with the growing numbers in need. If additional aid is not urgently received, there will be a break in the food pipeline in October”.

To help stem the unfolding crisis, the U.N. has designated Nigel Fisher to be the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator. As of now, five countries in the region have been the recipients of the nearly two million Syrians who have fled their country (an additional five million are internally displaced). Of these, the largest number is in Lebanon (nearing 700,000) with Jordan not far behind (just over 500,000). Parenthetically, the U.S. has only taken in 33 Syrian refugees. Egypt, which was very generous with Syrian refugees from 2011, placed restrictive entry procedures from July 8. Syrians who arrived on aircraft from Latakia and Damascus were sent home if they did not have a visa and prior security approval, according to UNHCR. Most refugees end up in Lebanon and Jordan where the weak states rely upon municipal leaders and ordinary citizens to bear the cost of relief. Over 4150 children have crossed into Syria’s neighbours without an adult, according to Unicef.

In Sarafand, not far from Aaqbiye, Mr. Shibli and his team found Syrian refugees living in substandard tents. Using locally fabricated materials including marine plywood and corrugated sheets, he was able to design a house whose prototype cost $1500 per unit. If he made more of them, he said, the cost would come down by nearly half. The UNHCR has gone into partnership with the IKEA Foundation to make pre-fabricated homes that cost $10,000 per house. The IKEA homes are made in Europe, they are harder to repair and they will not endure high velocity winds, says Mr. Shibli, a believer in local construction for refugee homes. Locally built homes would save the U.N. money, he says, and it would employ local people into economies wracked by the refugee influx.

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013).

A version of this article originally ran in The Hindu

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail