Child labor climbs among Iraqi refugees in Lebanon

This article was published by IRIN, the UN’s press service, on February 4

BEIRUT, 3 February 2014 (IRIN) – Ali Al Wasate may only be 13, but he has been forced to grow up. No longer in school, he has begun the painstaking search for work to help his family pay the bills in Beirut, Lebanon.

(Copyright: IRIN)
(Copyright: IRIN)

It was not always this way. When he was younger, living in Baghdad, his stepfather Ahmed had a well-paid government job, and Ali attended a good school. Nine years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, they felt that they had survived the worst of the situation. Then one day, everything changed.

“I was coming home from work one day, and two men with beards were waiting,” Ahmed said. “They accused me of being a spy and told me to leave the neighbourhood before it was too late. I asked them who sent them, but they told me it was dangerous to ask those kinds of questions.”

Convinced their lives were at risk, the Wasates packed up and fled to Lebanon. There, they became part of a small community of between 6,000 and 7,000 Iraqi refugees awaiting resettlement in a third country.

The family wanted Ali to continue studying, but when they started looking for a place to enrol him they were struck by the country’s high prices. Basics in Lebanon, such as rent, are often more than double the cost of those in Iraq. “We brought money that we thought would last two years. It was gone in six months,” Ahmed said.

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