Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon.
It is Wednesday afternoon and we’re sitting on the floor of a shack covered in tarpaulin with eight year old Karim, where he’s been living with his family since fleeing Syria.
He was up at 6am this morning picking potatoes in the neighbouring field to bring in a few dollars a week for his family. He is a strikingly handsome young boy – bright eyed and smart – and he’s sick of having to work.
Olwen Maynard is a member of the Asia and Middle East team. She tells us how bringing young people together in Lebanon is helping to build trust among local people and Syrian refugees.
There’s been a lot of heart-searching in this country about taking in Syrian refugees, and how many would be our ‘fair share’. Something we tend to forget is that most displaced Syrians are still in the Middle East region. Lebanon, a small country with a population of about four million (half that of Greater London), has taken in over a million. Just stop and think about that for a minute.
For World Refugee Day, CAFOD communications officer, Mark Chamberlain reflects on attitudes towards refugees
In the past fortnight a time machine took me back to the late 1980s. I was sitting watching my favourite tea-time programme: a re-run, in glorious Technicolor, of a McCarthy-era, American sci-fi series.
The meek, unsuspecting earthlings were being duped again, by the cold, cunning aliens. More invaders had landed in their town and were taking over. But the only people that could see this were a small boy who kept shouting for people to listen…and me.
Laura Ouseley, CAFOD’s World News Officer, recently traveled to Greece to meet refugees attempting to continue their journey through Europe, and the Caritas partners working with them.
As we drove up out of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and headed north towards the border with Macedonia, snow-capped mountains gradually came into view, the temperature dropped, and the landscape became increasingly barren.
I was in northern Greece to meet refugees who had already risked their lives crossing the Aegean Sea in overloaded boats and were now attempting to continue their journey through Europe. They had all saved up, borrowed money or sold their possessions so that they could make this dangerous journey in search of a better, safer life. They had already traveled at least 20 days to get there. For some it had taken much longer.
Every day at the border, coaches arrived with hopeful refugees. Hassan, a Syrian teenager I met there told me that this part had been the most difficult. “I have been waiting for so long. It is boring and so cold”, he said.
Dario Mitidieri began his career as a professional photographer in 1987 working for The Sunday Telegraph and The Independent newspapers. In his long and illustrious career, he has travelled to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to witness the army repression of students. He has also photographed the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Iraq War, the 2005 Tsunami in Indonesia and the Kobe Earthquake in Japan. He recently travelled to the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, with CAFOD and creative agency M&C Saatchi where he worked on studio-styled portraits of twelve families who have fled the conflict in Syria.
It is early – just before eight, but winding through the steep hill side roads of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, there is a frenzy of building work: hotels and luxury apartments going up. This ancient, open city is alive.
Once we leave the concrete landscape behind us, the undulating hills of the Bekaa valley – Lebanon’s agricultural pulse and once the ‘breadbasket of the Roman Empire’ – come into view. Overnight there has been a first dusting of snow on the hills.
Just over the mountain ridge, some nine kilometres away is the border with Syria.
I’m heading to a Syrian refugee camp, with CAFOD and its partner, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre.
Just before Christmas, I came together with CAFOD, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre and the creative agency, M&C Saatchi, to work on a unique project to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees: Lost Family Portraits.
Tabitha Ross is a CAFOD freelancer who works in Lebanon. On International Day of Peace she tells us about Eman and Hanigal – two mothers who have been forced to leave their homes in Syria because of the ongoing conflict.
Sitting on a blanket on the grass in the warmth of the sun, Eman looks shell-shocked to find herself in Lebanon, safe from the fear of violence for the first time in nearly four years. When I meet her, she has been here just over two weeks.
Despite coming from Daraa, the region of Syria where the uprising first began on 15 March 2011, and which has seen bitter fighting and bombing, Eman only decided to flee the country this year.
I ask what was the final straw, after so much suffering, that pushed her to leave. With tears in her eyes she said: “At the start of the war my husband disappeared, so I didn’t want to leave because I had the idea that he would come back. But in February my house was bombed and destroyed, so I decided to come here.”
Eman tells me how she and her four children spent three days on the road from Daraa to Damascus. Reaching the capital, they spent two nights sleeping in the freezing street. Finally a taxi driver took pity on them and brought them here to Lebanon, where she is staying with a cousin in an unfinished breeze block construction in the Bekaa Valley.
Mariana works for a CAFOD partner in Syria, providing life-saving food and emergency supplies to people who continue to be torn apart by the four year conflict. Read her story.
Fear and worry are my constant companions, never leaving my side when I’m at home or when I go to work. This is because of the continuous deadly shelling. You never get use to that sound, its power and then the haunting silence afterwards, followed by the cries of the injured.
About the author:Mariana works for a CAFOD partner in Syria, providing life-saving food and emergency supplies to people who continue to be torn apart by the four year conflict.
Two years ago I was sitting on our balcony with my daughter, singing many songs, when suddenly we were rocked by a powerful explosion. We froze. I watched my daughter’s face grow paler and paler, and then we heard the screams of a woman. The shell had landed on the pushchair of her two-year-old daughter, and her husband’s leg had been blown off.
So when I go to work, I ask myself, “Will I reach my job safely today?”
I’m 37 years old. I married in 2010 in Aleppo, and have three children, two daughters and a baby son. In 2012 my husband lost his job – the factory where he was working was destroyed in the fighting. So now I am the breadwinner for my family, employed as an aid worker, with one of CAFOD’s partners in Syria.