Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter


×
Roughly 1.5 million Syrians live in Lebanon, which has the highest population of refugees per capita in the world. VOA

In his early 20s, Mohammad was a law student who raised bees on his uncle’s farm in Syria.

But in 2013, he faced a terrible choice: Join the military, join a rival militant group, face prison or flee his country.


“What if I had to kill my own people?” he said at a mobile phone shop in an urban refugee camp in Beirut. “I tried to flee to Europe many times. I was caught by the Egyptian secret police, and they sent me to Damascus.”

There are now 70 million people “forcibly displaced” in the world, and their numbers are growing rapidly, according to the United Nations. Humanitarian aid is increasingly scarce, and the increase in refugees “is outpacing the rate at which solutions are being found,” according to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

As more people flee their homes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine who is entitled to protection under international law, and who is not.


An urban refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon is plagued with poverty in a country reeling from political and financial crises. VOA

“We need to uphold the refugee definition that is enshrined in the international legal system because it is strong, and we can leverage it in our discussions with States,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said at a Geneva conference on Tuesday. “We are not always successful, but we can use it. But we have to recognize also that many other people on the move have vulnerabilities and therefore need help.”

A refugee’s story

For every displaced person, there is a tragic story.

Mohammad fled Damascus to Lebanon, where he lives in a ghetto populated by refugees currently reeling from political and financial crisis. He gave up his education and left his family behind.

“If I had the money, I would go to a different country,” he said. “There is no future here.”

‘Refugee’ defined

Legally, a refugee is a person forced to flee home due to war, persecution, torture or other types of violence, according to Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UNHCR, in an interview in Geneva on Tuesday.

Refugee status, entitling the holder to humanitarian aid and asylum in another country, does not apply to people who fled other hardships such as extreme poverty or failed school systems, he added.

When people flee their countries for any reason, they often travel along the same roads and end up in the same place, making it difficult for states to determine who is legally entitled to help.


The UN says that there are 70 million refugees, twice the population of displaced people 20 years ago. VOA

“There is a lot of confusion about the terminology,” said Mahecic.

After more than eight years of war displacing half the population, Syrians who fled their homes are generally considered legal refugees, according to the UNHCR. But not all countries agree.

Many officials in Lebanon, which hosts the largest population of refugees per capita in the world, say the Syrian war is winding down, and most of the 1.5 million Syrians in the country are now “economic migrants,” a term that implies a person is not deserving of assistance.

In the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, where many Syrians have lived in makeshift camps for years, families say the war left them with no choices. At one settlement, neighbors say all of their homes were flattened by bombs, and they have no money to rent apartments, even if they felt it was safe to go back.

Young men say if they return to Syria, they fear they will be sent to the front lines to kill or die after fleeing the country instead of serving in the military.

On a good day, some men earn about $6 working informally. But on most days, there is no work, said Mahmoud, a father of a four-month-old girl, in his home made of tarps draped over wooden beams.

“If I work once in a week, how is this money going to cover my expenses like electricity, rent and milk for the baby?” he said.


Shaza Alrihawi of the Global Refugee Network was one of the 60 refugees attending the 3000-person refugee conference on Dec. 17, 2019 in Geneva. VOA

Policy shifts?

At the conference, Shaza Alrihawi of the Global Refugee Network was one of 60 refugees attending the 3,000-person refugee event.

In 2013, she fled Syria after someone fired a gun into her car, which was parked next to her house. It was a warning, she said.

She had received death threats, but she didn’t know who attacked her car. Rebel groups and the government both accused her of siding with the other.

Also Read- India Requires Some Bold Moves to Uplift its Economy

Increased humanitarian aid and policy shifts that help refugees get more jobs and education would alleviate some of the difficulties of living as a refugee, Alrihawi said. But the stigma and racism that often haunts refugees is harder to tackle.

“Becoming a refugee doesn’t change who you are,” she said. “I am still the same woman.” (VOA)


Popular

IANS

Rihanna was summoned from her seat to accept the honour, with the Prime Minister.

Singer Rihanna was honoured by Prime Minister Mia Mottley at an event which marked Barbados's new status as a republic, which was attended by Prince Charles. Addressing the pop star by her real name, the PM said: "Robyn Rihanna Fenty tomorrow morning shall have conferred upon her the order of national hero of Barbados."

Rihanna was then summoned from her seat to accept the honor, with the Prime Minister managing to rouse a laugh from the singer when she referenced her 2012 hit 'Diamonds', reports femalefirst.co.uk. She added: "On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you, the designee, for the national hero of Barbados." "And to accept on behalf of a grateful nation - you can come my dear - ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty, may you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation." Rihanna, who was born in the St Michael parish of Barbados, found fame in 2005 after being spotted by a record producer and has since gone on to become one of the most successful female artists of all time with sales of over 250 million and recently reached billionaire status through her Fenty beauty brand.

The Prime Minister continued in her speech: "Commanding the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence, her creativity, her discipline, and above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth. "Having satisfied that, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty has given service to Barbados which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attaining of the highest excellence to the Government of Barbados." It comes after a historic move for Barbados, which has become a republic after almost 400 years and welcomes its first president, Sandra Mason, after removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state. (IANS/ MBI)


Keep Reading Show less
Pxhere

It's that time of the year when there are festivities galore and entertaining comes to the fore.

By Manav Bhatia

It's that time of the year when there are festivities galore and entertaining comes to the fore. Manav Bhatia, Founder Trunkin shares some tablescapes for the season

Christmas Tablescapes: Whether it's cherry red tablecloths or plush green napkin rings, there's something for everyone. Red and green are synonymous with colour themes this time of year.

red and white candles on white ceramic vase Red and green are synonymous with colour themes this time of year. | Photo by Libby Penner on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
VOA

Typically, Glaucoma occurs in people with over the age of 60 however it can occur at any age.

By IANSlife

Have you ever faced eye redness? Or have witnessed blurry or foggy vision? Or experiencing halos around lights? Or nausea and vomiting are very common for you. You may well be suffering from Glaucoma which needs immediate attention.

Glaucoma is the second most common causes of blindness worldwide, according to a report by World Health Organisation (WHO). Typically, it occurs in people with over the age of 60 however it can occur at any age. It is also estimated that globally 79.6 million people are affected with glaucoma, half of them being Asian population. While in India, around 11.9 million people suffer vision impairment and out of which 1.2 million cases are due to Glaucoma. It is a growing concern for the population in India. Even after these high numbers, the enormous majority remains undiagnosed, and untreated. More than 90 percent of cases of Glaucoma remain undiagnosed.

Pink eye Glaucoma is the second most common causes of blindness worldwide, according to a report by World Health Organisation (WHO). | Wikimedia Commons

Keep reading... Show less