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Maya Gebeily

More than Numbers

Image courtesy of www.yalibnan.com

I invite you to do a little sobering math with me, readers.


There are roughly 460,000 registered Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, split up across decrepit and severely underserved refugee camps.  An additional 60,000 Palestinian refugees escaped Syria and are now residing in Lebanon. According to UNHCR, we also have about 530,000 registered Syrian refugees, plus about 100,000 awaiting registration. No official camps house these refugees; rather, they’re living in whichever neighborhoods and communities that are not openly hostile to them.


That puts us at 1,150,000 Syrian and Palestinian refugees – registered and awaiting registration – currently within our borders. And if that’s not enough to give you pause, consider those unregistered: about 370,000 Syrians, but likely more. That puts a conservative estimate of the number of refugees at 1,520,000.


1,520,000. A solid third of the Lebanese population is comprised of refugees at this point, and the numbers will go only up from here. By the end of 2014, it’s entirely possible that half of Lebanon will be refugees. The statistics themselves are appalling, but the disgusting realities go beyond the enormity of these numbers. In this country, refugees live in abject poverty, severely lack access to health and education services, are looked down upon by the remaining population, and suffer abuse by security forces.


Forget that old argument about the 1932 census and how many Christians-vs.-Sunnis-vs.-Shiite-vs.-Druze –vs.-a-million-other-sects we’ve got. Look at this number just one more time:1,520,000. These are real, physical numbers, and we need to face them. These are real, physical people, and we must have an equally real and robust and meaningful policy to address their devastating living conditions. Both the Lebanese government, and the population as a whole, must stop going on with their chaotic lives as if the 1.5 million non-Lebanese that have sought refuge here are invisible. They are more than numbers, and we should treat them as such.


Follow the author @gebeilym.

Image courtesy of www.yalibnan.com

Forget that old argument about the 1932 census and how many Christians-vs.-Sunnis-vs.-Shiite-vs.-Druze –vs.-a-million-other-sects we’ve got. Look at this number just one more time: 1,520,000."