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. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor