Thousands of Syrian families and children living in Arsal, Lebanon face having their homes demolished in the next few days or tearing them down themselves, after the deadline for removing all refugee shelters built with materials other than timber or plastic sheeting passed.
The alternatives for these families remain unclear. Some have started demolishing their homes, and setting up flimsy tents nearby, others are waiting to see if the authorities take a decision to move forward.
The decision to demolish shelters made of concrete with over five rows of bricks was communicated verbally to refugee communities. Save the Children and other NGOs have called on the Lebanese government to halt planned demolitions.
Bushra*, 34, a Syrian mother of 3 children aged 13, 12 and 3, who has been living in Arsal for seven years, said:
“They sent us a notice that we had to demolish (our houses), it was before the Eid. We started demolishing (the house), and the ceiling fell off, and we left, and we’re now waiting for someone to come give us wood and tarpaulin to continue with the demolition.
The whole camp is demolished, not just me, they said that all the houses had to be demolished. But I have a small child, she has asthma, we can’t stay outside, because of the sun.
The whole line of tents where we are, they’ve been all demolished. We are waiting for someone to come and register us, but I have small children, where are they going to sleep?”
This act occurs as we head into World Refugee Day on Thursday 20 June. The world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record; around one person is newly displaced every two seconds, according to Save the Children’s recent Global Childhood Report.
Nearly 31 million children are among the 68.5 million people around the world that have been forced from their homes as a result of conflict or persecution.
Save the Children is working with other humanitarian agencies on a plan to support families whose homes will be demolished.
A Save the Children spokesperson said, “We will be distributing shelter kits that contain a tent, plastic sheets, timber wood and a toolbox. We will also create one mobile child-friendly space (CFS), which can be easily moved to different locations across Bekaa and allow children and adolescents to access activities that contribute to their psychosocial well-being.”