So I was reading this article about IKEA houses to be sent out to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and I have to say I’m not sure how to feel about it.
Being Lebanese and having lived here my entire life, mixed feelings continuously pop-up when it comes to refugee camps, people without homes, and children with no roofs over their heads or food on their plates.
Having had, what I consider to be, a full and rich education, both from my parents, and school; I am not immune to those less fortunate, always trying to help them, and sometimes even putting them before my own needs. I have been taught to treat people the way I would like to be treated.
So I considered this: if my country were at war, my home destroyed, and my family being killed randomly, sometimes in front of my eyes; I would hope that being a refugee in another country would provide me with a seemingly safe environment in which to await and survive, before being able to move back and reconstruct a life that was taken from me.
But how many more refugees can Lebanon take? Writer Aryn Baker points out the main problem by stating that the Lebanese are “worried that the upgraded housing may just incite refugees to stay”. It’s tough to say I agree with her, but I do in some way.
Of course I disagree on the poor housing these refugees currently have to try and survive winter, it’s inhumane, and my whole system is raging at the idea that these people are going through hell without getting any help from people; but at the same time, my mind is asking me to be aware of all that is taking place due to these refugees.
Lebanon’s economy is already staggering as is, and has been for many years, starting with the Palestinian refugees, followed by wars between it and Israel, as well as a long, never-ending, civil war. When trying to count out the friends I grew up with in high school and college, I notice that the ones that have stayed in Lebanon can be counted on my hands, easily.
Why? Economy! There is no money left in Lebanon, there is no insurance, no safety net for any of us, no jobs left to fill, and when you do find a job, the pay is too low and the work load is too high, and of course, you never know what to expect the next week, day, hour, or minute.
I like to define it as a schizophrenic country. The mood can be shifted easily in a second, just by a few words being uttered by some politician on TV, or some misinterpreted action. Trying to start a business might save your life or might put you on the streets begging for a lira to feed yourself or have a glass of clean water. And as I already mentioned in my previous post …. , we Lebanese got used to living this way (to our own demise).
So after we’ve seen Palestinian refugees camp out on our lands, we rushed to their help like any human would do, and so we have done the same with Syrian refugees, but with limits, being careful to what we do or say, watching our backs and making sure that no one gets too comfortable.
The Lebanese economy is becoming even tougher than it was due to the refugees, taking up jobs that were supposed to be handed to Lebanese. Company owners nowadays prefer having Syrian cheap labor replace their college graduates to be able to save a couple of Lebanese pounds; instead of hiring one painter to paint a wall for 200 000 LL ( average to 133 $), the owner hires 3 painters to finish the job faster for 150 000 LL (100 $), each receiving 50 000LL. Now of course the job might not be done as well as the one painter that studied it, but it still might help for later when the client will need maintenance and re-painting.
Greedy, greedy, Lebanese; yet we never learn, that it’s not about saving a lira or two, but about providing each Lebanese with a job that will suffice him and his family to survive instead of keeping their own brothers out on the streets. Now of course jobs need to be handed to refugees as well, to help them provide for their own families, though not over the bodies of your own people.
I’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but I hope the idea is clear enough to see the other side of that story. But with this logic I think it becomes more understandable as to why the Lebanese community refuses to provide the refugees with more stable housing such as the IKEA tent.
They fear for their own children, it’s a parent’s thing, but it makes sense after all.