Lebanese TV station report claims Syrian refugees contribute to spread of cancer

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A report published by the website of local Lebanese television station MTV titled “Cancer sweeps Lebanon: Two reasons contribute to its spread” alleged that Syrian refugees in Lebanon are one of the reasons behind the spread of cancer in the country.

Doctor Fadi Nasr was quoted as saying that “the rise in infections due to the rapid increase of refugees in Lebanon has indirectly caused cancer due to the bad conditions they’ve forcibly suffered from, they (came to Lebanon) and brought dangerous bacteria that may create diseases.”

Nasr noted that the second reason was the garbage crisis and the worsening pollution in the sea and the environment in general.

Activists on social media networks and news websites that carried the story on Wednesday stated that the report initially quoted the doctor as saying that the Syrian refugees “directly” contributed to the spread of cancer, but the report was later modified and used the word “indirectly” instead.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who are estimated to be about 1.5 million, have long suffered from increased racism.

Several local media outlets have reported stories and incidents including the burning of a Syrian child and imposition of curfews for Syrians in some towns.

According to a Human Rights Watch report entitled “Growing Up Without an Education - Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon” published in 2016, many Syrian refugee students suffer from bullying and harassment by other students.

Thirty families told HRW that “their children faced bullying and harassment, including on the basis of national origin, and nine families said their children were physically attacked by other children.”

“Refugees and humanitarian workers described several cases in which Lebanese children waited after their morning shift at school in order to harass Syrian children arriving for the afternoon second shift,” the report said, noting that “rates of enrollment for Syrian children in secondary education are extremely low.”

“There were 82,744 registered Syrian refugees aged 15-18 as of August 2015, but only 2,280 non-Lebanese students enrolled in public secondary schools in 2015-2016. According to one humanitarian worker, just 1,287 of these students were Syrian—less than 2 percent of the total number in this age group,” the report added.

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