As Lebanon’s cold winter begins, later than usual after a warm December, the drop in temperature is sudden and harsh. In their concrete homes, Lebanese are freezing.
From their side, the refugees in shanty “homes” imposed by Lebanon’s “national defense strategy” under the Construction Law Act, No. 646, are risking to freeze in all sense of the word.
Human Rights Watch has released a video to show their dire conditions in the border town of Arsal as they suffer the change in weather.
For more than 15,000 Syrian refugees, it is the second harsh winter they will experience since Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council ordered them to dismantle their sturdy shelters and opt for non-permanent/less protective material, according to HRW.
Based on the Lebanese Construction Law Act, No. 646, the refugees can only use wood and tarp for their upper walls and roofs – otherwise, the army would demolish their homes during raids.
“This crackdown on housing code violations should be seen for what it is, which is illegitimate pressure on Syrian refugees to leave Lebanon,” said HRW refugee rights director Bill Frelick at the time the order was enforced.
Now, this “national defense strategy” currently affects around 60,000 Syrian refugees in Arsal.
They are forced to live in distressed conditions, exposed to harsh weather conditions, including freezing temperatures, floods, and strong winds that threaten to carry away their homes.
“Humanitarian response programs for Syrian refugees in Lebanon that provide shelter are massively underfunded,” HRW writes.
In a recent visit, HRW interviewed seven refugees in Arsal. Some said that, despite everything, they didn’t feel safe enough to go back to Syria.
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