Tent-dwelling Syrian refugees forced into debt by high rents in Lebanon

 

Lebanon

When she fled the bloodshed Syria with her five children Ferdaws didn’t expect to have to pay live in a tent. Her sons scavenge for scrap metal - the only income the family has - but she has been unable to avoid falling into debt. 

Forced to pay inflated rents and largely fend for themselves the 37-year-old from Hama is not alone, many Syrian refugees in Lebanon say they are facing eviction and racking up debts that they cannot afford to pay back, straining the country’s already struggling economy. Refugees visited by The Independent pay as much as 150,000 Lebanese pounds (£66) a month for the land on which they pitch their tents as Lebanese landowners cash in on the influx.  

Abandoned buildings, caves and garages have become homes, while makeshift encampments have mushroomed. With the country bursting at the seams the Lebanese government is now considering setting up official refugee camps - previously a political "red line" because of the country's past experience with Palestinian camps. 

Ferdaws borrowed some of the 300,000 pounds she needed for the plastic and wood to construct her modest dwelling in the village of Saadnayel in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley from a relative, she doesn’t yet know how she will manage the 500,000 pounds a year in rent. “I’ve asked him to be patient,” she says. For every sack of old aluminium her sons collects the family can buy two loaves of bread, but the metal is becoming more scarce. 

“I tell my children to try not to eat too much,” she says. She also owes 120,000 to local shops, who have let her buy on credit. 

“Every single family we meet in the field is in financial difficulty and it’s having an impact on the local community,”  says Patricia Mouamar, from World Vision, which is assisting refugees in the area. 

In a nearby shop Diah Beiruti pulls out her ledger book. She is owed 4m pounds by refugees, which in turn has put her 3.5m pounds in debt to her suppliers. But still she goes on lending. 

“If a family comes to you and says ‘I want bread’, would you have the heart to say no?” she says. “If I don’t get the money back I’ll be suffocated, I’m scared.” 

In a nearby half-constructed building Kaisser, a 32-year-old from Homs and his pregnant wife and three children live in a single room with a bathroom-cum-kitchen for 200,000 pounds a month - the rent has just been raised by 25 percent. Last month he covered bills by selling a five month fuel coupon handed out from an aid agency on the black market. Now he’s thinking of leaving for a tent, but needs cash to cover the materials. 

“It’s haram to pay this much,” he says, as the wind whistles though the plastic that covers the windows. The landlord Mohammed Morsil, who works as a truck driver, defends his decision to put up the rents, claiming he had taken a $20,000 loan himself to brick up walls after refugees requested to move in. 

“There’s no work anymore, people are calling me asking for money,” he says. 

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind"

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album