OLIVER QuintinNorthern Lebanon: Overlays of refugees
by Quintin OLIVER for Forum for Cities in Transition
11 October 2016

It is easy to absorb the statistic that Lebanon’s population has increased by a third on foot of the Syrian crisis, but nothing prepares you for the reality on the ground.

Each building site, every half-finished apartment block, almost all roadside verges demonstrate the evidence of a displaced people trying to find a corner to settle on.

For Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, the other surrounding countries to the drama itself, the refugee response model has involved the UN establishing camps, with the iconic blue and white tents stretching into the distance; shelter, water, electricity and little else is provided, as refugees struggle to plan ahead or find reasonable labour market opportunities. See my blog about this from Iraqi Kurdistan in 2014, nearly three years ago: https://citiesintransition.net/tag/quintin-oliver/

Meanwhile in Tripoli, some two hours north of Beirut, the conflicts of old from the very foundations of the state, Palestinian refugee camps, the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990, the Syrian occupation, Israeli influences, Hezbollah and their patrons in Iran and now the waves of homeless refugees across the nearby border of Syria have created various obvious overlays.

We visited one area, with a spectacular view out over the turquoise Mediterranean, with Alawite (Shia) in one block, Sunni in another and a Palestinian camp in a third, each community jostling for security, resource and recognition; ‘Should we head for Europe, however dangerous?’ asked one man in his twenties; ‘When can we go home?’ speculated a Palestinian, as plaintively as a recent arrival from Homs, concerned about a possible half century of exile ahead!

As ever, the energy and resilience of the most dispossessed is an inspiration, as they mostly come to terms with their conditions, work to provide for their children and seek a better future for them all. We attended a graduation of mixed residents from a cross-community college that would lift any sceptic’s horizons.

Quintin Oliver, a participant in SCISA’s September Seminar, ‘Syria: Pathways to Peace’,  travelled to Tripoli for www.StratagemInt.com to support a conflict workshop by www.citiesIntransition.net