When Fleeing War Becomes Illegal
As Jordan and Lebanon try to stem the refugee flow, the most vulnerable are the first to be kicked out or not let in. Palestinians from Syria are a minority within a minority, without a state to speak for them. The governments that surround them speak of their cause, while shoving them around between camps, sieges, bombings, and war. Their ostensible solution is return, but as Israeli occupation continues and Gaza burns, what are the chances of that?
My latest for The Atlantic, on how Jordan and Lebanon treat Palestinian refugees from Syria.
12:25 am • 20 August 2014
My student approached and read this to me out loud during break. He and his wife came from Baghdad 6 months ago. “We have racism there too,” he said, “But of sects and religion.” I asked which sect he was and immediately regretted it. “Y3ni, Muslim - or just, I’m just human,” he said.
10:22 pm • 18 August 2014 • 1 note
Jordan’s Other Refugees
Jordan has taken in wave after wave of refugees from surrounding countries as violence rips across the region: so far, more than 600,000 Syrians since 2011, along with some 29,000 Iraqis, 2 million Palestinians, and about 4,000 asylum seekers from Sudan, Somalia, and other countries. As crises escalate, Jordan’s government and the UNHCR are struggling to maintain stability while responding to overwhelming need. Meanwhile, refugees and asylum seekers grow desperate, many having fled death only to enter an indefinite competition of vulnerability.
My latest for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace/Sada, a photo essay and explainer on the competition of need as Jordan tries to handle Syrian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Somali and other asylum seekers all at the same time.
و كمان موجودة بالعربي
(No, I didn’t do the translation. يا ريت!!)
10:20 pm • 14 August 2014 • 1 note
Using Facebook, Cameras, and Cash, Syrian Refugees Are Trying to Save Each Other
We’re in eastern Lebanon, a 90-minute drive from Beirut, a one-hour drive from Damascus, and just five minutes from the Syrian border. Sun beats through the windshield as we thread through the Bekaa Valley, an area known for its poverty, high crime rates, sectarian tensions, and, since 2011, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. I watch Mohamad count out $10,000 in cash.
"It’s for an open-heart surgery," he tells me. "It took us three months to raise $14,500 for this kid. The operation is tomorrow. Alhamdulillah.”
My latest for VICE News, a story from my last few weeks in Lebanon.
12:18 am • 14 August 2014 • 2 notes
Forgotten Migration: The Impact of Media Focus on Refugee Status and Settlement
What role does media play in enabling or obstructing refugee recognition, settlement and access to services? When a country like Jordan deals with major refugee influxes - the Syrian crisis, for example, which compounds a history of hosting Palestinians, Iraqis, Sudanese, Somalis and others - minority populations often become marginalized and forgotten. Sheer numbers and immediate need dictate donors’ prioritization of one population over another, especially when recent crises draw attention away from prolonged conflicts. How does this oscillation of focus affect forced migrants’ situation on the ground? What does it look like from individual refugees’ point of view, and what does media have to do with it? Freelance journalist Alice Su will present from her experiences reporting on minority refugee populations in Jordan.
I’m giving this talk today as part of this workshop hosted by Columbia University. I’ll delve into RSD, how that differs between each refugee population, the implications on their daily lives and if/how media can impact the situation. Most of the presentation is based on my reporting with UNHCR and refugee populations in Jordan, much of it drawn from my Pulitzer Center project. If you’re in Amman, ahlan wa sahlan.
10:31 am • 8 August 2014 • 2 notes
Aya lives in an informal tent settlement in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley. Her family is Palestinian-Syrian, which means they are double refugees. Lebanon is now denying Palestinians from Syria entry, and has forbidden those already here from renewing their residencies - so they become de facto illegal, vulnerable to detainment and deportation at any time.
“They are illegal for being here, not even bc they want to be here,” an UNRWA spokesperson told me. Lebanon is completely overwhelmed, an HRW employee said. “But closing the door in the face of the most vulnerable cannot be the answer. You cannot tell people, just stay and die.”
12:21 pm • 7 August 2014 • 1 note
My favorite thing about this center was that it’s run by and for Syrians. A group of young volunteer Syrians started Basmeh & Zeitooneh in 2012, wanting to help their own people - not to make them dependent, but to empower them to help themselves. By the end of this campaign the women’s workshop will be financially self sustaining.
If you’re far away from the Middle East but want a direct way to help w the refugee crisis, give to this campaign. It’ll really do something good.
10:35 pm • 1 August 2014
38 yr old Meryem was born a Palestinian refugee in Syria. Now she’s a refugee again in Lebanon. Her husband died in the conflict and she has no children. “I used to just sit and cry at home,” she says. “But now the people here are like my second family.” (at Shatila Camp)
10:34 pm • 1 August 2014 • 1 note
Meanwhile, refugee women from Syria embroider, crochet and sew in Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s Shatila workshop. The NGO currently employs 90 women in crafting bags, scarves and cushion cases sold abroad - this gives them income, freedom from NGO aid dependency, and a strong network of friends. (at Shatila Camp)
10:33 pm • 1 August 2014
Refugee women and children watch a protest for Gaza in Lebanon’s Shatila camp. 10,000 Palestinians live within 0.5 sq miles here, with hundreds of Syrian refugees who increase pressure on the already strained building, water and energy infrastructure (read: lack thereof). (at Shatila Camp)
10:33 pm • 1 August 2014