Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon’

Helping People Help Themselves in Lebanon

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

A man with a disability makes ceramic items in a shop at the office of CRS partner agency Arc en Ciel (“Rainbow”) in Beirut. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Freelance photographer David Snyder is traveling throughout the Middle East to see the many CRS projects helping people throughout the region. David is blogging about what he sees along the way.

I’m just in from some site visits now—the last of my trip with Catholic Relief Services through the region. My time here has been short, just three days, but we covered a lot of ground, literally and figuratively, to get a taste of what CRS is doing in Lebanon.

We started our time here with a CRS partner called Arc en Ciel, which means “Rainbow” in French. They have been around since the 1990s, and are one of the largest non-governmental organizations in Lebanon dedicated to issues surrounding people with disabilities.

I got to spend some time talking with their project staff about CRS support, which centers on a program helping to place disabled with employers looking to fill vacancies – a win/win situation, especially in a social context where appreciation for and acceptance of the disabled is still very low. At one of the two Arc en Ciel offices in Beirut I got to photograph some workshops where people with disabilities employed by Arc help to build and repair various walking aids, like wheelchairs and crutches. Arc sells them to the Government of Lebanon, which in turn distributes them free of charge to those in need.

Lebanon Migrant Center Aids Iraqi Refugees

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Photojournalist David Snyder, on assignment for CRS, sent this report from Lebanon.

Iraqi Refugees

A view of the Zeatrieh neighborhood of Beirut, which has become a magnet for Iraqi refugees fleeing to Lebanon. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

I spent the day today in Beirut, meeting with Iraqi refugees receiving assistance through the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center. It’s not my first time here, nor is it my first time with the staff of the center. I was in Lebanon in 2006, when fighting between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants displaced tens of thousands here. Caught up in the conflict, thousands of migrant workers, many of them Sri Lankan, flocked to the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center for help. For days I watched as the staff worked to process paperwork for panicked and frightened workers, seeking to flee the country.

Today the tide is moving in reverse. With support from Catholic Relief Services, Caritas is helping Iraqi refugees, headed through Lebanon, bound for anywhere but back to Iraq. I met families today in the neighborhood of Zeatrieh – a cramped network of side streets that houses hundreds of Iraqi families. Most have little, some have nothing, and almost all have overstayed the visas that helped them escape Iraq.

In Lebanon, Building Peace and Hoping for Prosperity

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Sahar Frangieh, Project Officer for CRS Lebanon, writes from Beirut about how our work helps young people in troubled Lebanese villages:

The global economic crisis is affecting everyone around the world; families are suffering from unemployment and social instability. Inequity among people is increasing. The high price of food and fuel is threatening families’ sustainability, especially in rural areas. However, change can happen.

Rima Sleiman is a young woman whose life was touched by CRS. This law graduate, born and still living with her family in Qsaibe, a rural village in South Lebanon, had been searching for a job opportunity close to her home. She wanted an opportunity to improve her life, contribute financially to her family’s rising costs of living, and at the same time fulfill her dreams.

Building Peace Through Lebanese Youth

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Hussein, a 23-year-old man living in a volatile region of Lebanon, is part of CRS’ peacebuilding programs for youth. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

“I hated what happened…we knew two guys who died in Beirut. I don’t feel safe any more. I am not even worried about my future but about what will happen tomorrow morning.”

These fearful words by a 24-year-old man about last May’s fighting in Lebanon underscore the tensions that threaten this fragile Middle Eastern country. There are more than a dozen political parties in Lebanon, 18 religious groups, and involvement from other countries who see Lebanon as key to advancing their own interests. Too often ordinary Lebanese feel powerless before their own political leaders and those of other countries.

Lebanon has been in the news a lot recently. In May, it chose a president after months of deadlock marked by assassinations and fighting. Last week, it named its government ministers after an 18-month standoff. This week, it exchanged prisoners with Israel, bringing some closure to the war of summer 2006. Everyone watching this complex, troubled land hopes it can overcome a decades-old legacy of violence.

With its peacebuilding programs, CRS is helping Lebanese communities to find common ground. In the south of Lebanon, where political and religious divisions among Shia, Sunni, and Christian groups have caused problems, CRS partners ask people from opposing factions to brainstorm projects everyone in a town can agree on. These “consensus building” programs focus on improvements like better water and electrical systems. In Minyeh, a poor town in the north of Lebanon, CRS works with local partner Na-am to teach young people in their 20s about good government. The young people ask their neighbors what would make their community better, and then work with town authorities and with each other to make it happen. Youth are having strong impact — in one town the adults have noted that the municipality picks up the trash more frequently now that the youth are more involved. (more…)

Hope and Help For Iraqi Refugees

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Two Iraqi refugee boys outside a social services center in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo by David Snyder/CRS

Representatives from Catholic Relief Services are participating today in a forum at the National Press Club in Washington that is highlighting the plight of the 2 milliion Iraqis who have been displaced by the war. CRS is co-sponsor of the event, Villanova Law Schools Ryan Forum on Law and Public Policy.

Many Iraqi refugees have fled to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, where they live as “illegal immigrants” and are unable to get jobs, schooling for their children or even basic medical care for their families. As they try to start new lives, they are forbidden to work in many cases, and shut out from services that citizens receive. These refugees wait out the days — hoping against hope that they’ll get visas to third countries.

Catholic Relief Services is working through our partners in the Middle East, like Caritas Lebanon, to provide food, medical care and help with rent to thousands of refugees. Mark Schnellbacher, our CRS Regional Director for the Middle East, and Najla Chadra of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, participated in today’s panel.

CRS is also working to bring this issue to greater visibility here in the United States, particularly among American Catholics. Our CRS Advocacy staff has kept our grassroots legislative network informed on this issue and urged them to support appropriate legislation addressing the crisis. Earlier this year, CRS sponsored a delegation of eight women religious to Syria and Lebanon, where they saw first-hand the conditions in which these Iraqi refugees live and the challenges they face. They returned to the U.S. and mobilized to raise awareness of Iraqi refugees’ suffering, speaking in their congregations, universities and the media, as well as briefing members of Congress. And after speaking here today, Najla is scheduled to speak about the situation for Iraqis in Lebanon to several more groups in the Northeast.

Setting the Captives Free: CRS Partner Helps Release Jailed Iraqi Refugees

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

They’ve been threatened with kidnapping, received anonymous envelopes containing a warning bullet and seen family members mutilated in their home country of Iraq. So they fled.

Now Iraqi refugees in neighboring Middle Eastern countries — an estimated two million people —are struggling to find pay rent, find jobs and get medical care.


Drawn by an Iraqi refugee girl in Lebanon, this picture shows the girl (in purple) below her father and older brother, who are outside a green “jail” in the top right corner. The jail represents the retention center in Beirut where illegal immigrants are housed. The Arabic words read: “Please Jesus, get my father and brother out of prison. Thanks for keeping them safe and sound for me. Amen.” Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

In Lebanon, Iraqis have faced another threat: arrest and imprisonment. Considered illegal immigrants, tens of thousands of undocumented Iraqi refugees were not allowed to work in Lebanon and were imprisoned if they overstayed their short visas. Hundreds of Iraqis have been detained in the holding cells of a retention center in Beirut — without light, fresh air or hope. Others are housed in a regular prison, sharing space with criminals.

But thanks to the efforts of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, these Iraqis will soon be reunited with their loved ones and will be able to look for work in their new country. With support from Catholic Relief Services, other Catholic donors and the United Nations’ refugee agency, the migrant center has negotiated an amnesty with Lebanese authorities. By paying visa fees to regularize their status and working toward a job-sponsorship program, Caritas should be able to free approximately 300 Iraqis and keep others from being detained.

“This is a major and unprecedented step forward, contributing to alleviating the plight of Iraqi refugees living in dreadful conditions in Lebanon,” says Najla Chahda, director of the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center.

The news is a wish come true for young girls like Rana, an Iraqi staying in a Caritas refugee shelter near Beirut. Like many undocumented Iraqi men over 18, her father and older brother were sent to the retention center while she, her mother and her younger siblings were sent to the migrant shelter. In a drawing, Rana imagines the retention center as a green jail with the door open, and shows her father and brother standing outside it.

“Years before the issue of Iraqi refugees became front-page news, social workers at the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center were working with compassion and skill to help these families get on their feet once they reached Lebanon,” says Melinda Burrell, Country Representative for CRS Lebanon. “Catholic Relief Services is proud to support the Migrant Center’s commitment to helping those who are bearing the brunt of the chaos in Iraq.”

The amnesty will also mean that thousands of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon can come out of hiding. Fearing arrest, many of them have rarely left their bare, cramped apartments. Without jobs or a connection to the Lebanese people around them, and traumatized by what they lived through in their home country, Iraqi refugee families have fallen into poverty and despair.

Caritas will continue to cooperate with the Lebanese government to eliminate obstacles that keep Iraqis poor, like fees and difficulties in applying for residency permits. Since the permits require an employer to act as a sponsor, Caritas also plans to link prospective employers with Iraqis. Continuing its ongoing social work, Caritas will follow up with freed detainees, making sure they have the papers they need to avoid being arrested again.

In the coming months, families can look forward to joyful reunions. Prisoners should start being released on a rolling basis starting in late February 2008. Just as in Rana’s drawing, the door is open now.