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Shelterbox Pull Out Of Lebanon

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8:01am 26th August 2012

Cornish aid teams are forced to pull out of Lebanon, as they try and help Syrian refugees.

Shelterbox workers have been helping thousands fleeing violence.

But the Helston charity says it is too dangerous.

It is focussing on helping in Jordan instead.

ShelterBox operations co-ordinator Tom Lay flew out to Jordan earlier this year.

"We were monitoring the situation at the beginning of this year and we quickly realised the scenario could develop into something where we were no longer talking about small numbers of refugees trickling over the Syrian border, but big influxes of displaced people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. We needed to be on the front foot, ready to respond."

"Thousands of displaced people are coming over the border, an increase of about 18 to 20,000 as a result of the peaks in violence."

"We will make an intervention into Syria if it's appropriate. At the moment it's too dangerous to send any response teams into the country, but we are preparing should ShelterBox be needed there. If fighting in Syria ceases and families start to return, they will need shelter because their homes will more than likely have been destroyed as a result of the conflict."

Meanwhile in Beirut, ShelterBox response team member (SRT) Alice Jefferson had been working with grassroots organisations and the UNHCR to ascertain the need for shelter in Lebanon. Alice, who is from Truro, said:

"The capacity of the local community is being stretched to the limits. More and more people are coming across the border and those with means are renting apartments or staying in hotels in urban areas, this means the price of living is being pushed up and it's very difficult to find any accommodation."

In rural areas schools are being used to house multiple families. Alice continued:

"There are three schools in the Bekaa region where families are living on top of each other. The authorities want to re-open the schools in time for the start of the new academic year, which means these families will have to leave."

ShelterBox's response had to be postponed after the armed wing if the Muqdad clan retaliated against the Free Syrian Army's (FSA) kidnapping of their clansman Hassan Muqdad. According to reports 30 people were seized in the Bekaa valley and in southern Beirut, raising worrying security issues for aid workers operating in the area.

SRT Phil Duloy from Falmouth recalled:

"Members of the Muqdad clan wearing balaclavas and holding automatic weapons were interviewed on live television, saying they were targeting citizens of countries and even local individuals who they deemed supportive of Syria's insurgency. Their list included the very contact we had just been meeting with, who was due to pass out aid request to the government. Having found no other secure routes for ShelterBox aid into Lebanon, we reluctantly made the decision to wait for a better chance and focus our efforts on Jordanian routes."

8:01am 26th August 2012

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