Mount Lebanon Reception Center, interview room: In Reception Centers, UNHCR provides different services, including the renewal of UNHCR certificates for registered Syrian refugees, issuing housing attestations, verification, and update of data in the family profile such as a newborn child. ©UNHCR, Shadi Sheikhsaraf
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is assisting Syrian refugees in Lebanon with registration. This step ensures that they will face fewer challenges when accessing their rights, especially children who are more at risk.
Ward and Latifa were conscious of the importance of registration and ensured their whole family is registered with UNHCR.
They both once led a normal life in Syria. But like millions of people, they had to flee upon the outbreak of the crisis.
It was a bullet to her face that triggered Latifa and her family’s exit in 2012. They realized they had no other choice but to leave their home in Homs. Ward would follow due to similar reasons, and the two would eventually meet in Lebanon and marry only a few years later. Now, they are the proud parents of two young children: Tasneem, 7, and their newborn, Elias.
“It’s difficult to leave your country when you feel unsafe, and it’s not an easy decision to leave without knowing what will happen to you,” Ward said.
Elias is the newest addition to their small family. He is only a few months old but both Latifa and Ward wanted to ensure that he would be registered. The young couple fear that without UNHCR registration, their children might face challenges accessing their rights.
“We are pleased that Elias has been added to the UNHCR file. It is critical that we register our children with UNHCR so that they can receive aid, particularly medical assistance, protection in the event of a crisis, or legal support. It can be quite difficult if you don’t have any documents to prove your identification, to prove who you are,” Latifa said.
Ward is a skilled sculptor. He has been acknowledged by the Lebanese Department of Archeology for his work in restoring artifacts. Latifa, is an artist too. She works as a professional painter, creating portraits for her clients. The family’s major source of income in Lebanon has been selling their artwork, crafts and services. For the small family, their income once sufficed.
But Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the world’s worst national economic depressions, has hit families in need the hardest. Facing a currency devalued by over 85%, the economic situation for families like Ward and Latifa is worsening as time goes by, and many are resorting to harmful coping mechanisms like skipping meals. The crisis in Lebanon has sent the price of basic goods soaring and led to shortages of food, fuel and medicine.
“I’m now working fewer hours and making less of an income. My wife hasn’t worked since Elias was born. We started cutting down our meals to be able to purchase other necessities even prior to the financial crisis. Things have only gotten worse,” Ward explained.
The socio-economic crisis has had an impact on the lives of Lebanese, migrants, and refugees alike. According to the findings of the 2021 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian refugees in the country, nine out of ten refugees are currently living in extreme poverty, unable to fund the full cost of food, medicine, and other necessities.
As a result, food insecurity has increased, affecting half of all refugee households, and over half (57%) of Syrian refugee families are living in dangerous, substandard, or overcrowded shelters.
The situation has similarly had a disastrous impact on Lebanese.
Despite their hardships, the family is grateful for the UNHCR’s cash assistance. “Without this help, it would be really difficult for us; we’re using it to cover the needs of the kids, such as food or stationery for Tasneem to attend school,” Ward added.
Registration with UNHCR is a step towards accessing aid for families like Ward and Latifa. While it is not the only way to access rights, registration with UNHCR is an important first step.
In 2021, UNHCR Lebanon verified and updated personal data for more than 300,000 refugees. UNHCR also added 11,533 newborn babies of registered Syrians to their parents’ files. In addition, close to 20,000 refugee families received legal counseling on registering the birth of their children.
Life-saving humanitarian funding from the European Union (EU) in 2021 has enabled UNHCR to provide registration services and multi-purpose cash assistance to refugees, ensuring those most in need are supported.