1000 Syrian families face eviction in eastern Lebanon

Bayrut, Lebanon Current Affairs March 29 @ 12:20pm

The town of Bar Elias in the eastern Beqaa Valley is home to 35,000 Lebanese -- and nearly twice as many Syrians. Last week, Bar Elias's municipal government said last week they will raze a pair of camps in the town that house around 1000 families.

The reason for the announcement is unclear, though military intelligence has been searching for suspected militants and criminals believed to be in the camp for the last week.

Life is already difficult for refugees in Bar Elias and across the Beqaa Valley, where Syrians now nearly outnumber the Lebanese -- famously in Lebanon, Bar Elias won't even let Syrians bury their dead inside the town, and often they are also unable to register new births. The burden of so many extra people has taxed local populations and municipal services in a place where the economy is already suffering from the war. Bar Elias is 10 miles from the Lebanese-Syrian border, and the Beqaa's main export is produce -- but exports are down more than 50 percent because goods can no longer be shipped overland from Lebanon to the gulf via Syria, the only route.

We'll spend a couple days with families in the camp, as well as talking to Mohammed al Jammal, the mayor of Bar Elias. Tensions between refugee and local populations are not uncommon, though mass expulsions are fairly rare. We can also speak to NGO workers in the area (Danish Refugee Council most likely) for a slightly more detached view of the situation -- but most importantly, we can follow whatever transpires -- either some sort of detente between the refugees and the municipality, or the expulsion of the refugees and their search for a new home.
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