Lebanon: Cry Palestine
In Lebanon, a small but densely populated country, there are 12 official camps with about 230,000 refugees. Compared with their counterparts in neighboring Syria and Jordan, Palestinians in Lebanon has the highest percentage of refugees who are living in abject poverty and who are registered with UNRWA’s “special hardship” program.
Shatila camp, located in Beirut’s “belt of misery” is home to about 15,000 Palestinians and Lebanese who share a common experience of displacement, unemployment and poverty. In September 1982, the Israeli military’s Phalangist allies conducted an extensive series of raids on the Sabra neighborhood and the Shatila refugee camp. The camps were externally surrounded by Israeli soldiers throughout the incident and the extent of Israeli involvement in the attack has been hotly disputed. The attacks resulted in some 700 to 3500 victims, primarily civilians. The Sabra & Shatila massacre still strikes hard at the minds and hearts of Arab people, an atrocious event that must not be forgotten for the Palestinian people in their long struggle to free Palestine.
About 15,000 registered refugees are squeezed into one kilometre square of land. Many buildings were haphazardly built to accommodate new refugees or when a couple forms a new family. Water, electricity and sanitation conditions are also in near dire states. Narrow alleys with a messy canopy of wires and water pipes running above one’s head are common sights in the camps. Without proper infrastructure for more than 60 years, living conditions are tough for its inhabitants.
The children of Shatila pass their time playing computer games, snooker or soccer. Trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and undesirable living conditions in camps, many youths lack opportunities to move up the soccer ladder. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees are not accorded with rights to own property and no matter how well-educated they are, they are only allowed to work in 72 professions.
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