BEIRUT: Some 15 Sudanese refugees have been on hunger strike for over a week outside a U.N. office in Beirut, and they say that if their demands are not met they will die under their cardboard shelters.
Among the strikers’ demands to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is a speedier process for determining refugee status, legal assistance for those detained for illegal entry or stay, and quicker resettlement to third countries for recognized refugees.
They began their strike last Monday.
There are no more than a few hundred registered Sudanese refugees in Lebanon, but this does not count what could be thousands of others seeking refugee status or simply in the country and off the books. Lebanon has not ratified the 1950 Refugee Convention, which means that refugees cannot legally stay permanently. Those who UNHCR deems legitimate refugees must wait for relocation.
The supine men are protected from the sidewalk and the sun by cardboard. After surviving harrowing experiences at home, Lebanon has become a purgatory of sorts for them. “We are not respected at all,” says Mohammad Abdul-Latif, who describes the indignities of multiple families sharing one room and one toilet, and the difficulties of finding employment.
“We work cleaning toilets and streets, and that [in itself] is not a problem,” he continues, explaining that it is the lack of worth afforded them that is tiring. “They call us derogatory terms – chocolate colored. At school, they tell [our children] they are charcoal.”
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)