The Effects of Conditions in Refugee Camps on the Physical and Mental Health of Syrian Refugees

Introduction

This study will outline the impact of spatial conditions in refugee camps upon the physical and mental health of Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon. The conditions of the refugee camps vary in size, capability, facility and materiality. However, it is core to analyse how each of these aspects contribute towards the mental and physical impairment of the Syrian refugees. The research will intend to identify the extent of refuge provided and take into consideration of how this equates to human rights. The study will also aim to analyse whether a segment of a geographical area is able to serve the basic human rights. This specific issue is important and relevant as a study as many neighbouring and surrounding countries complain of the economic and political strain refugees ignite, however, Moorehead states that the most disregarded of facts is; that over 85 percent of the world’s refugees remain within their own regions and provinces. The argument is contemporary in the present day due to the ‘refugee crisis’ which is the result of wars and prosecutions. Consequently, this has led to unemployment, political instability and insecurity.

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Spatial conditions of a residence has the ability to induce various feelings and sensations. Nevertheless, for refugees who have departed from the ruins of a warzone in the expectation for a place of refuge may be subdued. Despite many neighbouring countries assimilating Syrian refugees under the pretext of providing refuge, the extent of this protection could be questioned. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are often subjected to work in occupations where the Lebanese population repudiate. In addition to this, Syrian refugees are often exposed to jobs where they are required to work for longer hours in return for a reduced wage. Furthermore, residents of a village in eastern Lebanon burned down a makeshift Syrian refugee camp, on the pretext that a Syrian had raped a disabled Lebanese man. This example signifies the governments resistance towards the generation of camps, instead, seeking to house refugees either in rented accommodation or with local families and communities.

This study will primarily have a theoretical approach as the main source of theory and literature will be derived through journal articles and books. The techniques and procedures used will be the analysation of photography as a reflection of the conditions of the camps. Throughout this study, qualitative research methods will be used to identify in depth details of this issue. This research will be structured to explore what forms of refuge is available for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, how this impacts the mental health and wellbeing of refugees whilst considering the political and geographical implications. This will be further implied by examining the Architectural contribution towards spatial design for refugee dwellings with the introduction of Architectural elements to modify the spaces in accordance to the refugees needs.

In this study, I intend to learn and discover what methods can be implemented to improve the conditions of refugees whilst analysing how far the shelter provided by Lebanon for Syrian refugees exceeds. Analysing the opportunities and the coinciding obstacles Syrian refugees face in Lebanon and weighing both sides of the argument is vital in this study in order to understand the extent of torment Syrian Refugees are facing. As a result of my findings, I intend to evoke further questions into the treatment of refugees and the contribution of architecture in reference to the accommodation of refugees.

Methodology

I intend to analyse the lack of contribution of Architectural planning in refugee camps in Lebanon whilst disintegrating and assessing the factors that have led to this detrimental situation. I propose to tackle the issue by analysing Literature reviews on the conditions refugees face whilst identifying the circumstances through Narratives and Photographic images. I will research how to retrocede a refugee’s identity both physically and mentally. As many refugees are crammed within a small cir-cumference, I will research for methods and analyse architectural elements that could be used with-in camps to create segregated spaces. This could lead to the approach of making spaces temporally public and private to suit the residents according to the time or the activity. Analysing photography taken in Lebanon, particularly of Syrian refugee can allow the identification of the correlation be-tween the conditions of the space and its impact upon the mental health of the Syrian refugees.

Ethnographic understanding and studying of the spatial conditions with its impact upon the inhab-itants is vital within this study. Observing the materiality and the assembly of the materials in the photographic sources can aid my research as a means of comprehending how these spaces can affect the wellbeing of the Syrian refugees.

Examining photographic images of the Syrian refugees within the camps of Lebanon; more specifically the camps in Arsal which is in close proximity to the border with Syria will be vital to understand the spatial conditions of the camps. Studying imagery which reveals the authentic truth is core to my study as I intend to reveal the Narrative of struggle of the Syrian refugees, beyond the presentation of the provision of Lebanese camps being widely available. Whilst written literature is beneficial to my study, it is also equally imperative to comprehend the state of Syrian refugees through visual material. Diego Ibarra Sánchez, a Spanish photographer who captures the reality of the refugees issues his worries that readers have become “inured to Syrians’ suffering. Politics and legislation also have an influence upon the treatment of refugees. In general, Lebanon opposes “the notion of being a country of asylum. Despite actively engaging within the establishment of the international refugee regime, Lebanon steadfastly rejects the ratification of the major refugee law instruments, including the 1951 Convention which delivers inclusive codification of the rights of refugees at an international level.

The extent of asylum provided to Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Analysing the extent of asylum Lebanon provides for Syrian refugees in terms of material means requires careful consideration of contributing factors such as; health, education and language barriers. Photographer; Diego Ibarra Sánchez anticipated his project, Limbo: Lives in Exile, will convey the unceasing urgency of the Syrian refugee crisis. Health is immensely vital for both the young and old generation of Syrian refugees residing in the ‘temporal’ camps in Lebanon. However, Ibarra expresses how they are constantly disregarded; “No one is supporting them. No one is giving them a voice”. This statement is principal as the atrocities towards Syrian refugees are constantly overlooked.

Access to quality housing is predominantly difficult for the most economically disadvantaged refugees who are heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance to cover the cost of rent and other basic necessities. Refugees are often forced to flee their homeland, their livelihood and even their families in the search for survival. In the case of Syrian refugees, many were forced to evacuate to neighbouring countries due to the war and escalating conflict. The result of forced displacement of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has led to the exploitation of education and work opportunities in order for Syrians to create a livelihood for themselves. Nevertheless, everyday life in Lebanon is not conceptualised as a safe zone. Syrian refugees are increasingly being used as scapegoats for the poor economy and political challenges within the country. Due to the absence of data at the lower levels of the geographic specification, the shortage of officiated camps initiates refugees to self-settle around Lebanon. The spatial conditions could also be a contributing factor for the refugees abandoning the camps and migrating to other spaces around the city. As previously stated, camps are not widely available or provided sufficiently, therefore, Syrian refugees are forced to reside with Lebanese families in rented settlements.

Due to a lack of facilities, many Syrian refugees have converted their temporal residences into more permanent dwellings in order to boost their livelihood. These refugees have generated new representations of the spaces they occupy by the means of starting up enterprises, introducing new forms of inhabitation or navigating urban quarters. These actions indicate the need to “articulate a different representation of the refugee experience, one through which refugees are recognized as active, competent social agents” as part of the relief and long-term development strategy.

Impact of spatial conditions on the mental health and wellbeing of Syrian refugees

The significant aim is to measure the intensity of the escalating mental health issue amongst the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and consider how the spatial condition contributes towards this concern. Previous studies and reports indicate that chronic adversity is generating increasing levels of stress amongst Syrian caregivers. This repetitiveness is proving fatal for many individuals amongst the refugees. This in return could affect the younger generations psychological wellbeing which cross references into a downward decent. In addition, physical health in the midst of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon is a core problem which needs to regarded. As the refugee camps mainly in Arsal are surrounded by water, they can lead to water borne diseases and spread rapidly due to the crowded camps.

The impact of residing in camps and homes which are constructed by using low quality materials, lack spatial planning and are not preserved well. This could lead to the residents facing mental and physical health issues. Poor ventilation and housing conditions like dampness are associated with respiratory diseases and infections which could increase the mortality rate. Due to the lack of waste disposal facilities and food storage, pests could inhabit the space causing multiple health problems.

Spatial conditions with exploration of the political system

This study will Examine and dissect the current state of accommodation in Lebanon for Syrian refugees whilst investigating the impact of politics upon the dispersment of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. A refugee camp is a temporary space in which refugees may receive humanitarian aid and protection until a durable solution can be found in accordance to their situation. “Refugee camps are (always or sometimes) spaces of hospitality. This could be debated to consider whether the aid is satisfactory or unacceptable. In spite of the Lebanese government not outlining any specific or exclusive legislation to aid the Syrian refugees, it still continues to host over 1.5 million refugees, despite the rejection from many Lebanese citizens. However, the question of the state of the accommodation provided could be debated. In many cases where the accommodation for the refugees is not available, money or vouchers provided assist Syrian refugees to rent spaces and the family accommodations of Lebanese families. The state of the housing can detriment or effect the health or refugees and also functions as “a powerful social determinant of health with downstream effects. ”A large majority of displaced Syrians are living in increasingly harsh conditions and are residing in substandard shelter conditions. The evidence suggests the affliction and suffering of the Syrian refugees which may be powered through the lack of help from the political system.

As a result, the geographical border and restrictions with the prevalence of political tension within Syria and Lebanon could play a part in the dissemination of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The main border of Syria and Lebanon is based in Bekaa. The map reflects that the majority of Syrian refugees reside in Bekaa valley in comparison to the other prime refugee dwellings. South Lebanon homes the least number of refugees in comparison to the other spaces refugees often occupy. The political dominance of Hezbollah within south Lebanon could interrelate as to why this area is not highly occupied with Syrian refugees. Hezbollah holds significant power in Lebanon and has also been an ally of the Ba’ath government of Syria which is led by the Al-Assad family. Hezbollah operates as both a Shiite political party and a militant group. Due to its political organisation and social services, it has adopted its reputation as a “state within a state”. The close ties between the leader of Syria and Hezbollah are signified as Hezbollah publicly confirmed its involvement in the Syrian Civil War.

07 April 2022

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