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The Refugee Camps photo project

Female refugees at the Burj Barajneh Camp in Lebanon’s capital. About 500 buildings that accommodate refugees were initially set up in the camp, which was founded back in 1949, but it has expanded over time
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Edition Three: Lebanon

According to the UN, more than 470,000 Palestinian refugees are registered in Lebanon. These refugees are the people who left their homes during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949, with several generations of their descendants included. The Beirut camps that they have been living in for 70 years already, have long ago morphed into cramped city slums where poverty, overcrowding, and streets filled with trash, along with poor infrastructure reign supreme. Up until now, there has hardly been any hope for the refugees to return to their homes given the Arab-Israeli impasse. In this joint photo project, TASS and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will present the hardships of people who have not found their appropriate homes.  

Burj Barajneh’s streets are so narrow that driving cars along them is utterly impossible, so the locals use motorbikes.  

A view of the Shatila Refugee Camp from the roof a former hospital. According to various estimates, 11,000-40,000 people inhabit an area of less than a square kilometer.

A refugee’s apartment in the Sabra district, adjacent to the Shatila Camp. Previously a hospital, it is now inhabited by Palestinian families. The bulk of these apartments just have bare walls and floors. 

A boy in one of the houses at the Shatila Camp. Playing on such crumbling staircases in these makeshift shelters is quite dangerous.

A market at the Shatila Refugee Camp. A banner with political slogans stretched out over a bazaar’s market stalls, decked with Fatah (the Palestinian National Liberation Movement) flags and images of Palestinians killed in conflicts.

An elderly Palestinian woman at the Shatila Camp. Locals are usually very interested in foreign guests and permit them to take photos. Visitors from the outside are expected to observe modesty and reverence: one needs to cover their heads with anything they have. 

Construction work at one of the houses at the Burj Barajneh Refugee Camp. The construction of new residential premises is often very chaotic, with essential standards failing to be observed. 

Children at the Shatila Camp. The myriad of electrical power lines often cause accidents especially when it rains.  

A shop at the Burj Barajneh Refugee Camp. There are lots of them here, owners buy goods in bulk in Beirut. There are posters of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas on many walls.

The Shatila Camp’s nooks and crannies. Despite all the hardships, people try to brighten up the harsh reality with vivid colors. There are simple cafes here and even beauty salons. 

Children at a garbage dump at the Shatila Camp. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are prohibited from working in dozens of fields, their access to medical care and education is limited. The camp’s inhabitants live in extremely poor conditions and can barely make ends meet.

Pets at the Shatila Camp sometimes pop up in unexpected places.  On the roof of a house, you can easily find a chicken coop, while sheep can be found devouring leftovers at an enormous market dump. ​