“Of course, we would like to return to our homes in Syria. But the Bashar Assad regime persecutes us, we know of refugees who have returned and arrested, tortured, others murdered, we are afraid.” The refugees in the small Lebanese camps said, made of wooden and plastic sheeting, and old blankets. Over time, they built them close to Lebanese urban centers, on the edges of cultivated fields, with the help of UN agencies and a few Western non-governmental organizations.
Mostly they are distinguished by the white UNHCR tarps used to cover the roofs. In the summer, insects infect these camps, and the huts become ovens. In winter, frost and mud reign, children get sick more easily.
It is not strange that they once hoped to find a way to reach Europe as soon as possible. But now they have resigned themselves: they would like to leave and return home, surrender to the same regime that had tried to overthrow and from which they had later fled. But they are afraid.
So, they remain in Lebanon, stuck, some for nine years, without hope. Perhaps those who argue that refugees from the destabilized Middle East eager to come to Europe are only “cheap” should take a look at these camps of Syrian civilians who have fled to Lebanon since the summer of 2011 from their burning country.Reaching them is not difficult.
There are over a million and a half, an enormous number, especially when compared with the approximately five million inhabitants of Lebanon. And a considerable fraction of the about seven million Syrians who fled the war and the violence of the regime, supported by Russia, Iran, and the militias of Hezbollah, the “Party of God” among Lebanese Shiites.
The others are now mostly found in Turkey, Jordan, Greece. They are so numerous that Syria has suffered a demographic collapse, from over 22 million inhabitants in 2010 to an estimated fifteen currently.
Another proof of how the regime remains unpopular and so detested, by a considerable part of its inhabitants, is that nine years after the outbreak of the Syrian Arab Spring, many prefer the poor precariousness of the refugee condition to the service security of Damascus. Most of their camps are located a half-hour drive from Beirut, in the heart of the Bekaa Valley, heavily controlled by Hezbollah.
According to the refugees, Bashar al-Assad and his spokespersons say they want social peace and their return. “As soon as some of us return, the secret police stop us, the young boys forced to do military service, the men considered ex-militants of the revolution captured. They disappear, imprisoned, tortured, or killed”. Says a man in refugee camp 024 in Lebanon. Over five hundred Syrians have vanished in the past year and a half.