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Catholic aid workers find Syrian refugees in the dark about the future

BEIRUT (CNS): Father Simon Faddoul, president of Caritas Lebanon, said that refugees from Syria are in complete darkness about their future.

The agency has been working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon for 14 months and Father Faddoul said there was a large influx of people in the last week of July, as more than 20,000 refugees fled from violence in Damascus and Homs.

“The situation we are in at the moment is terrible. What tomorrow will bring? Unfortunately, we estimate a worse situation,” he said. 

“The human plight and wound in this part of the world is getting deeper.” 

Caroline Brennan, senior communications officer for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), found people fraught with concern for relatives and friends left behind, as they were forced to flee the escalating violence with little advance notice. 

In a telephone interview from Beirut on July 31, Brennan, who is chronicling the stories of refugees in border communities in Jordan and Lebanon, said, “People are feeling, generally broken and they might not ever become whole again.”

She added, “The underlying feeling among Syrian refugees is this genuine deep despair for everything that is lost. They really were blinded by this happening to them. They did not expect this.” 

The United Nations (UN) said on July 31 that there were 34,096 displaced Syrians receiving protection and assistance in Lebanon through the efforts of the government, the UN and non-government partners.

However, Father Faddoul said the number of refugees is much higher. “In my opinion, the unofficial numbers could be well over 100,000,” he said, pointing to the roughly 300,000 Syrian workers in Lebanon who have been bringing their families to the country as the situation in their homeland deteriorates. 

He said the Syrian refugees are extremely afraid.

“They fear to talk or to be pictured. They are afraid to give their names to the UNHCR (United Nations Human Rights Commissioner),” leaving many people unregistered, he said. 

Caritas distributed food kits, food vouchers, sheets, blankets and hygiene kits to refugees in Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley region, nearly 13,000 items in all......

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