Abdulhay, like the war in Syria, is eight years old. His family are among the millions of refugees wondering what their future holds.
By Christopher Reardon in Mhammara, Lebanon | 09 March 2019
Eight-year-old Abdulhay has a memory of his father. They are in his yellow taxi, driving through their old neighbourhood in Syria. From the passenger seat, he looks over and smiles at his father. His father turns and smiles back. It’s a brief memory, but Abdulhay holds onto it like a treasure. It’s the only one he’s got.
“My father was shot, and my uncle, my cousin and my neighbour, and our house is destroyed,” said Abdulhay, who now lives in an informal refugee settlement here in northern Lebanon. “I am scared to go back because war means shooting.”
Today Abdulhay and his family met with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who is completing a five-day visit to Syria and Lebanon to learn more about the enduring and acute needs of those who have been displaced by the conflict. Eight years on, refugees here are increasingly contemplating whether and when to return, but many have fears that are holding them back.
“Return is a decision by the people,” Grandi told journalists this afternoon at a press conference in Beirut. “Those who return, who make that decision, must be supported – not only to return, but also to restart their lives.”
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Abdulhay and his family come from Eastern Ghouta, an enclave near Damascus where tens of thousands were trapped for years. “We had money, but there was nothing to buy at the shops,” his mother, Rana, 37, recalled. “Sometimes we had to eat the grass on the ground. We used to dig holes in the ground to get water.”
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