Carsten Stormer: Last Stop Lebanon


A wounded fighter in Lebanon © Carsten Stormer

Reporter and photojournalist Carsten Stormer sent in this story of Syrian refugees who have escaped to Lebanon.


A wounded Syrian refugee in a hospital in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. His right arm was severed in a mortar attack by the Syrian army. © Carsten Stormer

"In this backwater of terror refugees keep trickling through the porous frontier, washed up like flotsam nobody wants. Once they are in the Lebanon, their suffering takes on a new form. Here there are none of the refugee camps found in Turkey. There are scarcely any organizations ready to provide the refugees with their basic requirements, blankets, warm clothing, milk for the children, medicines; there is a lack of all these."


A wounded refugee boy in an apartment that is shared by three families. © Carsten Stormer

"They are third class refugees. Their only hope for survival lies with sympathetic Lebanese people who are ready to share what little they have with them, or take them into their homes. The northern Lebanese city of Tripoli is the epicentre for Syrian refugees. In the town's hospitals lie the victims of the war. All of them tell of massacres of civilians, of snipers shooting indiscriminately at anyone who ventures out of doors, of bombardments of residential areas lasting for days, of demonstrators being executed in public, of dead bodies being left to rot in the streets as a deterrent. Most of the refugees ask to remain anonymous, as they fear the long arm of the Asad regime even in the Lebanon. It is said that on numerous occasions members of the opposition and other refugees have been picked up by Syrian or Lebanese secret agents and sent back to Syria."


Refugees, picked up by a farmer, arrive " front of a dingy barracks. Helplessly they stand there like a herd of frightened sheep." © Carsten Stormer

"The Lebanese government finds itself in a dilemma. On the one hand it is bound to Syria by treaty, which is why it officially discourages Syrian absconders from staying in the Lebanon, but on the other hand it has no wish to alienate its other Arab neighbours by sending refugees back to Syria. Anyone who does manage to enter the Lebanon from Syria is regarded as a visitor rather than a refugee, and is allowed six months' leave to remain on that basis. In this way Lebanon manages to salvage its humanitarian reputation and at the same time avoid a diplomatic rebuke. Syrian activists in the Lebanon estimate that around 20,000 refugees have already slipped into the country. And the number is growing by the day. Despite this the Lebanese Red Cross fails to see the need for any action. Every day hundreds of people queue at official entry points for stay visas. Others are smuggled past the landmines, checkposts and army patrols into Lebanon by activists or the Free Syrian Army. They know of only one direction to go: out."


A Syrian refugee in no man's land between Syria and Lebanon. © Carsten Stormer

"Surviving on the borders of legality, these refugees are put up in private flats arranged by workers in the activist network, or in schools, commercial premises or slums on the city outskirts. Often there are as many as thirty of them in a small space, several families to a flat. Accommodation is scarce, rents are rising astronomically. Seats are in short supply in the rescue ship of the Lebanon. And life revolves around the latest news and rumours. Have there been fresh battles or onslaughts? How are the family members getting on back in Syria, are they still alive at all? Life has turned into a timeless vacuum."


Wounded Syrian refugees celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in a hospital in the city of Tripoli. © Carsten Stormer

Carsten_Stormer_refugees_08.jpgA wounded Syrian refugee in a hospital in Tripoli, northern Lebanon. © Carsten Stormer

Many thanks to Carsten for this photo and text submission, and for his amazing work and dedication. Big respect to you out there in Manila!

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