The war in Syria has led to one of the largest and fastest forced displacements in history. Over 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced within Syria and an additional three million have been exiled as refugees in neighbouring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Finding a place to live is increasingly challenging for refugee families. In Lebanon, Syrian refugees may live in informal settlements, usually consisting of tents and other makeshift structures, characterized by poor living conditions, limited access to water, and overcrowding. Other place where families live include overcrowded apartments and unfinished buildings.
How Did We Get Here?
86 % of all refugees are hosted by countries that are struggling economically, as is the case in Lebanon (where our research took place).
Lebanon is not economically prosperous, and it has been historically battered by religious divisions and political violence. The large number of Syrian refugees has further strained Lebanon’s already stressed infrastructure, increasing social tensions, while deepening the country’s socioeconomic disparities.
Within this context, high rates of poverty, burdensome governmental policies and regulations, a lack of affordable housing, food insecurity, decreased attendance in school, and family violence have all increased the vulnerability of families from Syria.
Why did the families flee Syria?
Syrians usually leave their homes when life becomes unbearable, often due to a cataclysmic event like their home being bombed or their children being physically threatened.
Why did families choose Lebanon?
The majority of Syria’s 5.6 million refugees have fled--by land and sea-- to neighboring countries but remain in the Middle East. One million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, making up about one-fourth of Lebanon’s population today; that means one in every four people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.
What are the main challenges for families living in Lebanon?
Many live in uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous conditions in informal tented settlements, which are not official refugee camps. With few legitimate work opportunities, they struggle to afford residency fees, rent, utilities, food, and healthcare.
What was Syria like before the war?
Syria was a center for culture and art. The capital, Damascus, was commonly known as the "Arab Captial of Culture," and the country hosts six UNESCO world heritage sites. People came from all over the world to visit the country for its natural, historical and cultural beauty, with more tourists visiting Syria than Australia in 2010.
Additionally, many of the families we spoke to describe a powerful sense of community and general well-being in their home country before the war.
What does Canada need to do to improve its response to refugees?
Canadian legislators are presently debating system barriers and improving access to services and reception support. Some researchers note that the different sectors of the Canadian government can be very disconnected in their responses to refugees. This makes it hard for incoming families to understand which services they are entitled to, and how to access them. These sectors must become more interconnected and communicate clearer to improve the reception of families. We'd also like to note that Canada can improve its family reunification program by increasing options for extended family members.
What can I do to help refugees?
You can help individuals affected by the war by educating yourself about the refugee crisis, advocating your government for policy change, or getting involved with community programs related to humanitarian aid or refugee sponsorship. You can also help by sharing stories on this website with others: The war is still going on, and people are still displaced. Don’t let the topic fade, and instead keep awareness high.