While driving around the outskirts of Sour, in fields preceding the small villages of Hosh or Naqoura, you see small tented settlements, bordering the road or scattered around the landscape. The Syrian refugee camps in South Lebanon are discrete and compared to other area’s of the country are fairly small. I was told that before their civil, war the Syrians use to come and work during the farming and the touristic season. They could find work and then go back to Syria. Nowadays the camps are occupied permanently and as they are growing bigger each day with approaching season the available work becomes scarcer. The Palestinians in Syria who have managed to flee the camp of Yarmouk in Damascus have took shelter with their fellow countrymen in the Palestinian camps of El Buss, Burj el-Shemali and Rashidieh. In 2012 the Syrians were welcomed by the Lebanese in available houses, garages. Returning the favor from the 2006 war when many Lebanese from the south fled Israelis bombings by taking refuge in Syria. However three years later the lack of space and the increasing number of newcomers have made the construction of Informal Tented Settlement’s (ITS) inevitable. The streets of Sour are full of children begging or selling flowers and chewing gums. The crops are filled with women and men harvesting lemons and the last mandarins of the season. Compered to the North of the country, the South has experienced a smaller influx of refugees but even here the presence of a major refugee crises is visible. The lack of rain this winter rises the fear of a major drought which could aggravate the relations between the local and Syrian community.
Its five o’clock in the morning and I have decided after a few days of location scouting to take a photo of the Rashidieh camp at dawn. So I head towards the beach and set up my view camera on the chosen viewpoint which happens to be a bay-watch tower left their from the previous touristic season. This view can symbolize the situation of the Palestinians in Lebanon. A town isolated in the Lebanese landscape a few kilometers from their homeland which many have never even laid foot on. On one side there is the sea on the other the banana crops. Behind are the fumes of the burning waste disposal and in front a natural reserve and the beach separating it from Sour. This morning the camp is even more isolated since the mist diffuses the first beam’s of the rising light. After having shot two photo’s to be sure, I pack the view camera and head back home where I load another set films for the rest of the day. During the next weeks I’ll be shooting in the very South of Lebanon picturing the small tented settlements just as isolated as this town/camp and meeting the families who live in them.