Refugees

NGOs help evicted Syrian refugees find shelter

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Work is under way to construct a new camp on a plot of land in the Bekaa Valley town of Bar Elias to house Syrian refugees who were forced to evacuate the informal camp of al-Dalhamiya. [Photo courtesy of Sawa for Development and Aid]

Syrian refugees who were evicted in late December from the informal camp of al-Dalhamiya in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley have been receiving vital assistance from local and international organisations, in co-ordination with the authorities.

Residents of the camp and of other informal settlements in the area were served with eviction notices by the Lebanese army in April 2017 for security reasons, due to the camp's proximity to the Rayak air base.

The roughly 300 residents of al-Dalhamiya were informed on December 18th that the camp must be evacuated immediately, and the Lebanese army officially shut it down on December 25th.

On January 3rd, the Ministry of Displaced announced that a new camp is being established for the displaced Syrian refugees on rented land in Bar Elias, in co-operation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Sawa for Development and Aid.

After the final eviction order was enforced, refugees were able to move 20 of the 65 tents at al-Dalhamiya to other camps.

But the residents of 40 tents were left without shelter.

These circumstances forced al-Dalhamiya camp administrator Talib Faleet Bazadi, a refugee from Homs, to contact Sawa for help.

Sawa teams swiftly arrived at the camp, where they launched a campaign to provide shelter, food and medical care to the displaced residents, and helped to expedite the process of securing a new location for the camp.

Relocation process under way

Work to prepare the site and construct new tents that meet the required specifications is now under way, under the supervision of the Social Affairs Ministry, with several organisations assisting in the efforts.

The goal is to finish building the camp by mid-January, Sawa head of relief services Haider Hammoud told Al-Mashareq.

"We headed to the camp on December 22nd immediately after the camp’s administrator contacted us and informed us of the security forces’ directive that they evacuate the camp," he said.

The refugees had begun to dismantle the tents, he said, and the weather was cold and rainy.

"We found ourselves confronting a humanitarian situation that called for sounding the alarm and requesting help from other non-governmental organisations (NGOs)," Hammoud said.

Sawa launched a media campaign on social media to request help, and initiated contact with other NGOs, he said, while also looking for an alternative site.

"The evacuation of the camp coincided with the Christmas holiday," he said.

Many organisations provide relief

"After we located a site, the Social Affairs Ministry co-operated with the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities to obtain a license and the approval of the Bar Elias municipality to begin work on preparing the venue," Hammoud said.

Sawa, Save the Children, World Vision, Basmeh and Zaitooneh and INTERSOS announced an emergency appeal on December 25th.

"Citizens have donated blankets and personal items to the refugees," he said. "We as an organisation continue to provide the refugees with daily meals and baskets of basic foodstuffs, and INTERSOS sends vans for mobile toilets."

Sawa will continue to provide daily meals to the refugees until they move into their new tents, he said, and will pay to rent the land for a full year.

"We also are taking care of the installation of an electricity and water system, making a water well available to the camp, and distributing the clothes we have in our warehouses," he added.

The camp is being prepared for the refugees under the supervision of the Social Affairs Ministry, which has dispatched a team to the site, Hammoud said.

Save the Children is rehabilitating the main road to the camp and side roads leading to it, he said, in addition to supplying gravel, tarpaulins and other building materials, while Basmeh and Zaitooneh is pouring the tent foundations.

Save the Children is responding to the needs of families from al-Dalhamiya camp, communications and media officer Ahmed Bayram told Al-Mashareq.

It has been "distributing in-kind packages to enable families to support their tents, withstand the cold weather, and restore some privacy", he said.

Outpouring of humanitarian aid

"The sight of the refugees without shelter in this cold and rainy weather rattled us," Saadnayel Youth Association head Omar al-Halabi told Al-Mashareq.

The association acted quickly, he said, providing food, blankets, medical treatment and medical care through a medical and nursing team.

"We simply had to act and help these refugees from a humanitarian perspective, because we cannot allow that they remain without support," al-Halabi said.

Al-Dalhamiya camp administrator Talib Faleet Bazadi told Al-Mashareq the outpouring of humanitarian aid has been "really wonderful".

"We are overwhelmed by the organisations and concerned ministries, as well as by citizens' sentiments, which they have translated into actions," he said.

In addition to the in-kind aid provided to the families and the shelter they have received, these entities are rushing to build a new camp, Bazadi said.

"Thanks to the humanity of everyone who took action to resolve our plight, 65 Syrian refugee families are waiting impatiently to settle into the new tents of Bar Elias camp that are under construction," he added.

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