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ICC Note: Lebanon, whose Syrian refugee population is over a quarter of its population, is establishing procedures for refugees to return to Syria. For Syrian Christians, their thoughts about returning are complex and diverse. Many cite a need for peace, dignity, and justice in Syria. Whether they will exchange their harsh life in Lebanon for a harsher and potentially dangerous version in Syria remains the question which many are evaluating.

09/01/2018 Lebanon (NCR) –  While procedures are being put in place for Syrians to return to their war-torn country from neighboring Lebanon, the refugee crisis continues to linger and remains largely unchanged, a Caritas Lebanon official said.

Lebanon hosts more than 1 million Syrian refugees, which is more than a quarter of its population. The tiny country, about two-thirds the size of Connecticut, has the highest number of refugees per capita than any country in the world. More than one-third of Lebanese residents — nearly 36 percent — live in poverty.

In recent months, several hundred Syrians have left Lebanon in organized returns to their homeland, coordinated between authorities in Beirut and Damascus, the Syrian capital. In early August, Lebanon’s General Security Directorate announced that it had opened 17 centers across the country that would receive applications for Syrians who want to travel home.

Yet the reality regarding the refugee situation in Lebanon “is still almost the same,” Fr. Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon, told Catholic News Service. The Catholic aid agency has been involved in the humanitarian crisis for more than seven years. “We are not seeing huge changes yet,” Karam said.

What is needed, Karam explained, “is to encourage the concerned persons in Syria and in the international community to proceed with a peace process and peace talks and let the Syrians decide for their own future.”

Refugees are making the best of their situation.

Amina, 16, has been living in Lebanon for five years with her parents and five siblings who range in age from 5 to 22.

In Syria, Amina said, the family’s life on the outskirts of Damascus “was comfortable” before the war. Her father owned a food processing business, rental properties and a restaurant. But Amina says all was destroyed in the war, along with their home.

The responsibility of providing for the family of seven has fallen on her two older brothers, who have forfeited their education because neither of her parents has work in Lebanon.

“I want to finish my education. I don’t want to lose my future, like what has happened to my brothers,” Amina told CNS. She said she wants to be a doctor because “I love to help people.”

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