Report and photograph: Luna Al Abdallah
Beirut looks different at night, active and alive. Some regions in Beirut are still awake, like its coast (Corniche). Painful stories could be heard there, like just three weeks ago, near the “Suicide Rock” in Raouche, the latest guy threw himself down the rock. He didn’t intend to kill himself, but he was threatening to the cops that he’d jump over if they attempted to seize him, and sadly he slipped down and died.
Besides similar stories, some gloomy tales are spread about Syrian people who work on the small boat-cruises, arriving and departing just underneath the rock. Another world is existing here, but you have to carefully look down the Rock to recognize it. The men here live in crash-houses with no windows, suffer cold and heat, or spend their nights homeless.
Mustafa and his ten friends work on the boats.
“Two years ago, when my house in Damascus countryside (Sbeneh) has been destroyed, I have come 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 bailed up to Jordan with other relatives. They intended to settle down there, but unfortunately, detained by Syrian security at the Syrian borders, so, they decided to change their destination towards the Syrian camps in Turkey. At that time, I planned to go back to Syria to obtain my military service papers which enable me to get my passport, then I might catch my family up, but now, two years passed with no possibility to going back.”
Mustafa kept quiet and looked far away for a while, then continued, “After the first six months, and despite of the danger, I made up my mind to return back to Syria motivated by hope of seeing my family again, ignoring what my boss reaction could be. He strictly refused to let me go back, trying to convince me to improve my situation before getting back home. The very next day, I lost 2,200 dollars which was all what I owned. Now, I have only my national identity card and my clothes”.
“Life here is full of humiliation. No work, no life. We start working at 07:00 till 19:00 with no breaks, even without any pause to have breakfast or lunch. At the end of the workday, we earn 20000 L.P. (about 13 dollars). The boss pays us half of it (7 dollars) and reserves the rest to cut them off, just in case, one of us was absent for a while, then, we have to work without pay. This could happen twice a week, which obliged me to borrow* some money from my friend to buy food, and pay them back next day,” Mustafa said describing the work in Lebanon.
“I mightily tried to find other work but in vain. Firstly, we used to sleep in the open air under sky, and then we built those straw wooden rooms, hopeful, that our stay would not last such long time. We have been informed that, an investment project will be launching in this area, we have to go back jobless to the street.”
Mustafa 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 however, I have nothing to lose. The organization gave me some documents to fill up and an appointment on the 14th of October, I kept the documents among my stuff where I live, but they were stolen. In fact I do not know who stole them and why..!. Anyway, I will try again and again!” Mustafa said.
The accurate statistics of Syrian workers percentage in Lebanon are not available, yet this percentage increases day by day due to continues migration of Syrian people since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. More than 750,000 refugees arrived to Lebanon, and most of the workers are between 12 and 20 years old.
A study about Syrian workers in Lebanon, prepared by the United Nations Committee on Economic and Social, titled “Syrian asylum repercussions on Lebanon”, declares that: 57% of 952 Syrian refugees are 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 stay in the camps in Turkey. 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 $ (bribe) but no assured guarantees, in addition to, the risk of potential detention there by the Syrian regime.” Mustafa said.
Mustafa Abo AL-Abdul Kader, his mother is Zeinab Kader, born in Manbij (Aleppo suburbs) in 1995, telling a story of two-years’ illegal work in Lebanon, underneath the suicide rock in Al Raouche, the place where stories of death* are told every day. “All I dream of is to talk to my family, and see them again,” Mustafa said, staring past the camera.
Report and photograph: Luna Al Abdallah