Coronavirus News Asia

Syrian refugees stuck in Lebanon salvage harvest

From the United Kingdom to India, lockdowns aimed at containing Covid-19 are threatening nations’ abilities to secure food, as migrant workers are cut off from crops.

Lebanon, like many countries, closed its land borders after the novel coronavirus began to spread among its population. In normal times, that would have threatened the movement of seasonal farmhands from Syria.

But nine years into the civil war next door, Lebanon has no such problem. The Syrian farm workers were already there – as refugees.

In Lebanon’s northern region of Akkar, which borders the Syrian provinces of Homs and Tartous, the potato harvest is in full swing.

A group of Syrians hailing from the central province of Hama on one of the farms there works for 2,000 Lebanese pounds per hour, or 65 US cents at the going exchange rate. Most of them are families, who now live permanently in a makeshift camp on the farm. The camp is named for the Syrian foreman, whose father did the same task of recruiting before him.

“We used to go back and forth, but not anymore,” said Hudoud, a Syrian woman working on the farm. She says she has no more relatives in Hama.

The potato harvest in the northern Lebanese governorate of Akkar in April 2020. The picking and packaging is carried out by Syrian refugees, stranded after nine years of war in their home country. Photo: Alison Tahmizian Meuse

There are few cases of Covid-19 in this region and none among the Syrians.

“We don’t have corona because we’re out in the fresh air and sun all day,” asserts Ziada, another Syrian woman working on the remote farm, where the global pandemic appears to be far from anyone’s consciousness.

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