Lebanon says no more Syrian refugees

(Oasis Photo courtesy Kids Alive  Lebanon)

(Oasis Photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

Lebanon (MNN) — Lebanon has officially announced that it will not accept any more refugees from neighboring Syria. You might be wondering if they hadn’t been doing that already. Kids Alive International Executive Vice President Matt Parker clarifies, “The Lebanese government has decided in the past few weeks to limit the number of refugees that are coming in, really stop refugees coming into the country and are starting to enforce that.”

Lebanon has over a million officially-registered Syrian refugees–nearly 25% of Lebanon’s population. There is an untold number of unregistered refugees hunkered down under overpasses, renting tent space in Bekaa Valley, or hiding out in warehouses, garages, or in any space they can find.

Not only will the government’s announcement likely prevent tens of thousands of Syrians from escaping their country’s civil war, it may trap the existing refugees in Lebanon. The Information Minister made it clear that Lebanon could not handle any more refugees. The refugees have stretched the country’s infrastructure and residents resent losing low-paying jobs to non-Lebanese. In fact, the government says the Syrian refugees already in Lebanon are being encouraged to leave. And Parker asks: Go where? “They really do have nowhere else to go. They can’t go back to Syria. A lot of them have lost their homes. It’s too dangerous for them to go back. There are really very few options available to them.”

Winter is coming, and few Syrian refugees have found shelter that will withstand the conditions. Parker outlines the growing desperation. “There’s no education available, no healthcare available for these people. There are food shortages, so these people are really struggling.”

(Oasis photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

(Oasis photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

Kids Alive Lebanon took 40 refugee children into their programs, many of them into their school program, but they wanted to do more. “These are kids who are broken, they’re suffering, and they’ve experienced so much pain in their lives. Pray for these kids. Pray for healing.”

What happens to a generation that lost their childhood to war? They stay lost, if no one steps in. That’s why the Kids Alive team decided to convert vacant workshop space into classroom space. “We’re really stepping out in faith in this new venture, so pray with us for the funding that we need to be able to continue,” Parker explains.

Walls were painted, floors tiled, teachers hired, desks and school supplies purchased. On 4 November, they opened the Oasis. “60 refugee children came along for the first time into three class groups and are now starting to get an education.” Parker says success like this in the early days of the program prove that the Oasis meets a need. “These are kids who would otherwise have no option for going to school. This is really a lifeline for them to have this opportunity for a promising future.”

Parker acknowledges that this venture has to have a long-term focus, rather than a 5-year focus. It’s unlikely the Syrian refugees will ever be able to go home again. “We’re going to be teaching them the Syrian curriculum, but partly the Lebanese curriculum. The idea is that we will take these children in now, we will give them the basics: Arabic, English, math, and some other subjects as well, and then try and integrate them into the mainstream school program in Lebanon.”

(Oasis photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

(Oasis photo courtesy Kids Alive Lebanon)

The hope of the Oasis project, explains Parker, comes from one-on-one relationships that the staff builds with the kids they’re reaching. “We have teachers who are committed Christians, who are working closely with each child, praying for each child, supporting them, and encouraging each individual child to grow in their knowledge and understanding of who God is, and then disciple those kids that make commitments to Him.”

Despite the rejection of a nation and the statelessness that stole their childhood, 60 Syrian refugee children have hope for a future because of the shelter found at Oasis, through Kids Alive Lebanon. Want to build into more futures? Click here to help Kids Alive sustain Oasis.