For Mahmoud, a Syrian refugee working in Beirut, the sharp economic and financial downturn gripping Lebanon has brought old anxieties from his homeland bubbling to the surface.
“I’m not ready to have the same thing I had in Syria,” he said.
More than four months into Lebanon’s increasingly volatile protests and more than half a year into a worsening economic collapse, Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been hit especially hard by the crisis.
The Lebanese pound’s devaluation on the parallel market, the lack of US dollars in the country, and associated price hikes across Lebanon are problems many Syrians said they recognise from the beginning of their country’s own crisis-turned-conflict.
Now, Syrians in Lebanon who have already been living on the brink for years have seen their United Nations cash assistance eroded by inflation and bank restrictions – amid deteriorating living conditions, freezing temperatures, and fears that refugees may encounter the same sort of conflict in the country they left Syria to avoid.
More than 75 percent of Syrians in Lebanon live below the poverty line, compared with 27 percent among Lebanese.
Many refugees in Lebanon’s camps have seen whatever job opportunities they once had consumed by the ongoing crisis.
The cash assistance some of them received from the UN can no longer sustain their families due to rising prices and a parallel market exchange rate that values the Lebanese pound far less favourably than the official exchange rate.
And as violent clashes between anti-government protesters, political party supporters, and security forces – similar to those that preceded Lebanon’s civil war in 1975 – have increased since December, some refugees have started to fear for the worst – the beginning of an armed conflict in Lebanon like the one they saw back home.