Resettlement Offers a Vital Lifeline to Syrian Refugees

By Angela Wells

12 May 2020

Luay and Aesha stand on the balcony of their home with their sons in the Bekaa Valley just days before being resettled France. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

Beirut – Ramadan was seven years old when he fell out of the second story window of his family’s apartment in Lebanon. In the last three years, his parents, Luay and Aesha, have centred their lives around helping him recover.

But life as refugees in Lebanon has offered them few opportunities to work, leaving them unable to afford steep medical fees.

In June of 2019, they were resettled from Lebanon to France by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). They are among the 100,000 refugees resettled from Lebanon to another country since 2011.

Many Syrians residing in Lebanon struggle to access services and opportunities. For refugees with medical conditions like Ramadan, resettlement to another country can truly be a lifeline.

“We are very happy, and we hear life is different there – and hopefully, those who are sick among us will get better. Of course, my life will be better. God willing, he’ll get treated and cured,” said Luay. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

There are good doctors and medicine in Lebanon, but I cannot afford it. I had to borrow money for Ramadan’s first biopsy. In France, he’ll be able to access the medical care he needs,” said Luay, Ramadan’s father, a few days before bringing his family to their new home in France.

Luay and his wife Aesha fled the conflict in Syria when violence first erupted nine years ago, leaving their family in northwest Syria. In the first three months of 2020, an uptick in violence caused new displacements of more than 1.3 million people.

Aesha calls her parents in Syria a few hours before leaving for the airport while Luay comforts his sons. They are unsure if they will ever have the chance to return to Syria and reunite with their loved ones.  Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

While life has been difficult in Lebanon, the kindness of the family’s neighbours has provided them a safe haven.

“When I could not pay him for five months, he told me not to worry. He has driven us to the hospital before too… Whenever I need help, he is always there,” said Luay of his landlord.

Most of Luay’s income in Lebanon has gone to tests and treatment for Ramadan, but it has not been enough to get him the care he really needs.

Ramadan, age 10, can still stand upright but his degenerative condition requires swift medical support. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

"The injury has affected his kidneys and liver. The doctor told me it will start to affect his heart and brain. Within a year, he’ll be unable to walk,” said Ramadan’s father Luay who has hope that proper medical treatment will improve his condition and help him build back his strength.

His new life will also offer him more opportunities to learn and develop alongside other children.

“Zacharia refuses to go to school if Ramadan doesn’t go with him. He is the little brother, but he brings him water, feeds him, carries his school bag. Zacharia is Ramadan’s right hand,” said Luay of his two sons.
Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

Resettlement can also be a lifesaving mechanism for refugees whose protection, safety, or fundamental rights are at risk in their first country of asylum. Mariam*, for example, survived horrendous acts of domestic violence in Syria. She lost her eyesight after being shot by her abusive ex-husband. He later found her in Lebanon after escaping from a Syrian prison. Since then, threats of more abuse have persisted.

Mariam lost nearly her entire vision in a domestic violence attack years ago. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

“He shows no regret. It is only getting worse. I want to leave to feel secure. I keep having nightmares. I always see him. I just want to sleep,” she said a few days before being resettled in another country with her two children.

"I am smart and capable of adapting in any place. Hopefully, if I get medical treatment for my eyes, the rest of our days will be good,” said Mariam.

Resettlement pathways offer refugees like Mariam and Ramadan a chance to access the services they need to continue their lives with dignity. Aside from being a vital protection tool, resettlement is also a demonstration of international solidarity and responsibility-sharing with countries hosting high numbers of refugees.

Luay helps his son Ramadan walk to the taxi that will take them to the international airport. Photo: Muse Mohammed/IOM

In 2020, it is estimated that 1.44 million refugees who are currently residing in over 60 countries of asylum worldwide will need resettlement. However, a limited number of places means many refugees who meet the criteria still wait in limbo.

The vast majority of resettlement operations have been put on temporary hold due to travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, IOM has been able to help a small number of refugees reach their destination on a case by case basis, particularly for people in emergency situations or when travel permits. 

The Organization is committed to doing all it can to ensure the health of refugees and our staff and to resuming all resettlement operations, picking back up with the current caseloads, as soon as it is safe to do so.

*Name has been changed.

This article was written by Angela Wells, IOM Public Information Officer for the Department of Operations and Emergencies.