A Palestinian refugee family's story, from Syria to Lebanon

Mahmud, Palestinian refugee, and her daughter Amal. Photo: Harriet Tolputt/Oxfam

As Amal*, 21, described how she was forced to quit university to flee the conflict in Syria, her father Mahmud* wept. "We had a life in Syria," said the Palestinian man, sitting in his small flat in the crammed Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in a suburb of Beirut, in Lebanon.  "We thought we were coming to paradise, but in fact, life here is hell".

Mahmud, himself a Palestinian refugee, fled Syria in 2012 with his wife and daughter - while his three sons stayed behind. The family moved from one dwelling to the next in Lebanon, where rents are high, until they were pushed by dwindling resources to move into Shatila, which was established to the south of Beirut in 1949.

Under Lebanese law Mahmud, a former shop owner, is unable to work so he now relies on his daughter to support the family. Amal added: "In Syria I was at university studying trade and commerce but now I am the source of income for my family. I have a good education so I work teaching private lessons." The young woman also works as a volunteer for Association Najdeh, an Oxfam partner.

Palestinian refugees who fled Syria settled in old camps in Lebanon, where aid and livelihood options are extremely limited. Oxfam works with partners inside the camps to support refugees with water, sanitation, food, among other things.   

* Names changed

"We thought we were coming to paradise, but in fact, life here is hell."
Mahmud, Palestinian refugee