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Building quality public services in Lebanon PSI and Swedish affiliates are starting up a project in MENA-region

Seven years into the Syrian conflict, Lebanon remains on the forefront of one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon are more vulnerable than ever, with more than half now living in extreme poverty, and over three quarters living below the poverty line, says UNHCR.

According to the UN Lebanon hosts one million Syrian refugees, but the real number is estimated to be the double. The majority of them are women and children.

Refugees make up over a quarter of Lebanon’s population - this situation is putting an immense pressure on public services.

Before the arrival of the refugees, we had a well with a depth of 90 meters. With the arrival of the refugees we had to dig a deeper well, it is now 270 meters deep, but despite that, we are still experiencing a shortage of water.”

Nemer Abou Msallem, Treasurer, Municipality of Terbol

PSI together with Swedish affiliates (Vårdförbundet, Vision, Fackförbundet ST, Akademikerförbundet SSR and Kommunal) has started a project with the Lebanese unions to spread knowledge about the situation of the refugees.

I'm sure that trade union work and having trade unions involved in this work, could make a very, very important impact on the policy - to push for peace, solidarity and human rights among these groups.

Maria Östberg Svanelind, International Secretary Akademikerförbundet SSR

The project is to raise awareness on the importance to promote equal right and quality public services for all

The refugee crisis has created tension between the local population and the refugees. Therefore, the project is also about building capacity and changing people's attitudes towards refugees.

Through the project, PSI aims to build awareness and capacity building within the trade union movement in MENA countries to promote access to quality public services and to fight for decent work and social protection for both refugees and the local population.

Genevieve Gencianos, PSI Migration Programme Coordinator.

Human Rights Watch has long documented abuses against Syrians in Lebanon, including reports of torture, deaths in military custody, physical attacks, returns to Syria, and the widespread use of discriminatory curfews.

(...) We took this action to prevent a problem before it happens. We put in place a 7 p.m. curfew to protect each group from the other (...).

Tony Succor, from the municipality of Bcharre told HRW.

Refugees should be able to access decent work and public services without fear and discrimination

Many refugees and their children are forced to work in the informal labor market to survive.

Refugees are forbidden to work in the public sector, and although they are officially allowed to work in the private sector, tough residency regulations, and the payment of a USD200 fee, often make it impossible for refugees to obtain a residency and work permit.

Bekaa Valley, May 2018.

In one of the camps outside of Terbol, in the Bekaa valley, most of the women and children work in the surrounding lettuce fields. They work from 5 am to 1 pm every day, earning USD4/day.

Living conditions are very difficult, the winters are cold and the summers hot.

Both refugees and local population are suffering from under-resourced public services, no access to decent work and proper social protection.

In Lebanon a huge amount of children are forced into child labor. As a trade unionist it's killing my heart to watch children work. Instead they should be able to attend school - in order to secure their future.

Sofia Eriksson - Kommunal, Sweden.

Refugees are banned from working in the public sector and many Syrians turn to the informal job market. This means that the wages are squeezed and they get blamed for stealing jobs.

In Lebanon there is not a proper public sector working for the poor people. This is why we need to start building a sector that are working for everyone. A strong public sector would not just even out the unfairness between people, it will also create a lot of new jobs in Lebanon.

Karin Brunzell, Fackförbundet ST

Significant improvements have been made in school enrollment for children aged 6-14 – with a national average of 70% now enrolled – up from 52% last year according to the UNHCR.

Nevertheless, there are many undocumented children who are not able to begin on their education.

Needless to say, we are pleased with our achievements and the increasing enrollment. But, what we find deeply worrying is the rising poverty, since it directly impacts children’s possibility of exercising their basic right to education. Additionally, funds keep decreasing, resulting in a re-prioritization of needs and restructured services – not only within education but across all sectors.

Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon explains.

Many displaced Syrians are not able to access primary health care. For some it's a matter of life and death.

Dream? There is none. No hope. My dream was… I don't know. As a matter of fact, I have none.

Syrian refugee living in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

(...) The health system in Lebanon is highly fragmented, with the governmental bodies as the official regulators, but standing behind the scene, are the private providers as the true influential parties in the health sector (...).

Therefore, there is a great need for a public health services that ensures equal treatment. It may reduce the tensions between groups of people and contribute to health for all in Lebanon.

PSI encourages the international community to urgently take responsibility for the displaced Syrians.

A special thanks to PSI affiliates for making this project happen.

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