December 5, 2013
Report and photograph: Luna Al Abdallah
Beirut looks different at night, active and alive. Some areas in Beirut stay awake, like near the caost, along the Corhiche. Painful stories can be heard there.Just three weeks ago, near the suicide rock in Raouche, the latest guy threw himself off. He didn’t intend to kill himself, but while he was threatening the cops to jump over if they attempted to seize him, sadly, he slipped down and died.
There are many similar stories.Some gloomy ones are spread about the Syrian people who work on the pleasure boats below the rocks. Another world altogether exists there, but you have to look carefully down below the rocks to see it.
The guys there live in derelict houses with no windows,suffering cold and heat, and are generally homeless.
Mustafa and his ten friends work on the pleasure boats. “Two years ago, when my house in the Damascus countryside (Sbeneh) was destroyed, I came to Lebanon for the first time. I couldn’t imagine staying here more than six months” Mustafa said.
Just before I got out of Syria, my family moved towards Jordan to be with other relatives. They intended to settle down there, but, unfortunately, they were detained by Syrian security at the border.So, they decided to change their destination to the Syrian camps in Turkey.
At that time, I planned to go back to Syria to obtain my military service papers which would enable me to get my passport and then I might catch my family up.But now, two years have passed with no possibility of going back”.
Mustafa kept quiet and looked far away for a while – then he continued.“After the first six months, and despite the danger, I made up my mind to return back to Syria motivated by the hope of seeing my family again and ignoring what my boss’s reaction would be.
He strictly refused to let me go, trying to convince me to improve my situation before attempting to go back home. The very next day, I lost $2200 which are all what I had. Now, I have only my national identity card and my clothes”.
“Life here is full of humiliation. Without work, there is no life,” said Mustafa describing the work situation in Lebanon.
“We start working at 07:00 and work till 19:00 with no breaks, not even a pause for breakfast or lunch. At the end of the working day, we earn 20000 L.P. (about 13 dollars). The boss pays us half of it($7) and reserves the rest just in case one of us isabsent for a while – then we have to work without pay.
This could happen twice in a week, which forces me to borrow some money from a friend to buy food, and to pay him back the next day”.
“I have tried very hard to find other work, but in vain. Firstly, we used to sleep in the open air under the sky, and then we built those straw and wood rooms, hopeful, that our stay would not last very long. We have been informed that, an investment project will be starting in this area and that we will have to go back jobless to the streets” Mustafa said.
Mustafa has also failed to obtain a refugee identity card.
“I went to the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees and presented my official papers to prove that I am a Syrian refugee with hope of getting the permission to join my family in Turkey. I did not know whether this step is useful or not, but I had nothing to lose.
The organization gave me some documents to fill in and an appointment on the 14thof October.I kept the documents among my stuff where I live, but they were stolen. I do not know who stole them or why. Anyway, I will try again and again!” Mustafa said.
Accurate statistics of the percentage of Syrian workers in Lebanon are not yet available but the percentage increases day by day due to continuous inward Syrian migration since the beginning of the revolution. More than 750,000 refugees have arrived to date in Lebanon, and most of the workers are between 12 and 20 years old.
A study on Syrian workers in Lebanon, prepared by the United Nations Committee on Economic and Social Development, entitled “The Repercussions of Syrians seeking Asylum in Lebanon”, declares that 57% of 952 Syrian refugees interviewed were working illegally in Lebanon.
“I attempted to contact my family in Turkey; they don’t even know where I am, and all I know is that they are staying in Turkish camps”, Mustafa continued.
“We have had no phone conversations for two years. The only solution is to go back to Syria and get my passport. According to a driver I spoke to, it is possible if I pay a sum of $100 (as a bribe) but with no assured guarantees- and in addition there is the risk of potential detention by the Syrian regime.”
Mustafa Abo Al-Abdul Kader, whose mother is Zeinab Kader, born in Manbij –Aleppo suburbs–in1995, telling a story of his two years working illegally in Lebanon, under the suicide rock in Al Raouche, the place where stories of death are told every day.
“All that I dream of, is to talk to my family and see them again” Mustafa said, staring towards the camera.