Syrian refugees looking for a life in Lebanon

Syrian refugees in Lebanon Image copyright Edward thompson

The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has now passed one million, according to a recent government estimate. Many have nowhere to go, few possessions and are struggling to survive. In some villages, near the border, the refugees now outnumber the Lebanese residents.

In December, photographer Ed Thompson travelled to Lebanon to photograph some of those displaced from their homes by the Syrian conflict.

The project began by chance a month earlier while he was being interviewed by a young Lebanese student, Sammy Hamze, of the London College of Communication, who mentioned that in his home town, families were taking the refugees into their homes. Within three weeks, the two of them were there working on the project together.

Thompson's pictures are supported by interviews conducted by Hamze and they hope that this will help draw attention to those who are desperately in need of help.

Meanwhile in Geneva, an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria has begun, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying it would be "unforgivable not to seize this opportunity" to end a conflict that has left more than 100,000 people dead and driven 9.5 million from their homes.

Here's a selection of the pictures, some with their own story.

A sheik (left of frame) who is living below a mosque in central Lebanon

Image copyright Ed Thompson

I am in charge of all the refugees here and my story is very long but I don't want to talk about it. But I can tell you this, see those two girls. They showed up at the town one day. They were in agony, they were helpless, God knows how they found their way from Syria. They told me that their parents got shot, along with everyone from their family and they escaped.

The girls are sisters and look, they are so young. It's a miracle how they came all the way and how they are still alive. I did my best to take them in and help them. We gave them shelter - both of these girls are still in shock and they are very depressed. They had nightmares and would run out screaming from the room. I don't know what to do with them except take care of them.

Family living in Lebanese family's summerhouse

Image copyright Ed thompson

I don't know where to begin. All I have to say is thank you to the Lebanese family for giving us shelter. They have been really nice to us, they treat us like family. But life is hard. We are trying to make ends meet so we work and work just to survive.

I wish I could go back to our house and our farm and land. We were wealthy farmers but now everything is gone. Our town has been turned into rubble, it's empty, not even the dogs dare to pass through it due to the fighting that happens from time to time. One of our friends who is in the Syrian army passed through our town and sent us pictures of the town and house and our house is completely destroyed and on top of that it has become a strategic point for the Free Syrian Army and they used to fight from there to shoot at our beloved Syrian army.

Most of my family doesn't have any money to come to Lebanon so they are living on the borders between Lebanon and Syria in shacks. I wish I could go back to my home.

Image copyright ed thompson

An early settler (not pictured)

I was one of the first settlers who moved here. There was nothing and I was sleeping in a shack made from a carton and garbage. A few days later another family joined me. We had nothing, no money, no food or water. Nothing until one of the townsmen took pity on us. This piece of land we are on is owned by the landlord. He started helping us, then other refugees started to come here, so we started to set up a camp and establish tents from whatever we could find and what was provided to us here by the people of this town.

No-one is helping us from charities, no-one has taken pity on us, not even the United Nations. They helped us for two months and then they cut us off. None of them ever came back here to give us food and water. I have been living here for a year and half. We have suffered from snakes and scorpions during the summer and now we are suffering from this harsh cold winter. We are unhappy, no-one thinks of us anymore.

There are 50 families living here... I wish I can go back to Syria. My life is gone. I escaped from Syria under a hail of bullets, gunfire and bombs, it was horrible. I know nothing about my family, my home or my town.

Image copyright ed thompson
Image copyright ed thompson

Living in a rented house

Image copyright Ed thompson

We are living a very hard life, we have nothing. We buy from our own money of what is left with us and we are running really low and soon I will have no money to support anything for my family. The water that we are drinking is contaminated and it is making us sick. Our journey from Syria was really harsh, I don't like to talk about it.

Everything we have here in this room is from the garbage, our life was not like this back in Syria. We had a wonderful life.

Photographs by Ed Thompson with interviews by Sammy Hamze, part of a continuing project.

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