1,300 Syrian refugees living in underground garage in Lebanon: UNHCR
The situation for Syrian refugees grows more dire by the day and nowhere is it more urgent than in neighbouring Lebanon.
Some Syrians seeking safety have literally been forced underground.
Those not able to find homes in host communities to live in have been left to find makeshift shelter.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to highlight the situation, releasing a video on Friday showing and underground garage where more than 1,300 people have been forced to live.
WATCH: Syrian Refugees Living Underground
A Syrian woman, identified as Fatima, said in the video she and her family wound up living in what now looks like a concrete bunker after family members told her they had found some place for them to stay.
Fatima and her family of eight have been living there for six months, according to the video narration.
“We have nothing here,” she said. “They built [a] partition for us but conditions are very basic.”
Community organizations have helped make the garage into something more livable, but barely.
For a long time people taking refuge in the garage had no choice but to live in squalor, with open sewers.
“It was sewage all over the place. It was people sleeping outside because they can’t resist the heat inside and the bad ventilation conditions that were existing,” said Ali Adnan Basma, an architect with the American University of Beirut. “Diseases were all over the place… If someone gets a disease, all the centre will get the same disease.”
“It was really not a place any human being [could] live in,” he said in the video.
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The community organizations working with UNHCR helped construct walls to create “homes” for the refugee families. The groups have also put in bathrooms and covered up the open sewers.
“The food isn’t clean and the water only comes a few hours a day,” Fatima said. “Electricity isn’t reliable, there are no fridges or washing machines.”
But there is at least some running water and some of the makeshift units now have electricity, according to UNHCR.
UNHCR released the video as a part of a plea for more funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis. The release came on the same day as the UN earmarked a further US $50 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund – $10 million of which will go to aid to cope with the situation in Lebanon.
A number of countries have said they will resettle Syrian refugees or give residency to refugees who have already arrived in a new country.
Canada said earlier this summer it would resettle 1,300 refugees by the end of next year.
Sweden will give residency to about 8,000 people who have already landed in the country – a further 6,700 may eventually get residency as well – Germany will take in 5,000 people and Austria 500.
The U.S., which has until this week been leading the charge for military intervention, is going to take in 2,000 refugees in the next fiscal year. But, according to a column in Bloomberg News on Thursday, the U.S. has only taken in 33 refugees so far this fiscal year.
UNHCR said earlier this month there are now 2 million refugees who have fled the violence in the country, but the agency estimates there will be 3.5 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2013. A further four million people are displaced within the war-torn country.
© Shaw Media, 2013