16 February 2015
Report sheds light on scale of exploitation faced by Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, with tens of thousands forced to sleep rough and thousands more prey to abuse
The 12-year-old boy, who calls himself Mohamed, stared out of the shelter’s window, his words as sparse as his frame, and his eyes melancholy as he described the beatings.
A hammer was the weapon of choice of his former boss at the car repair shop, where he worked 14-hour days after first arriving in Lebanon two years ago from neighbouring Aleppo, to help provide for his family of 10.
“I don’t get tired,” he said defiantly when asked how he endured the long hours, which earned him just $100 (£65) a month, a chunk of which was sometimes taken by a co-worker who beat him.
Mohamed is now in a shelter school in Beirut that doubles as a vocational training centre for Syrian and Lebanese children often forced by circumstance into the harsh and exploitative world of child labour.
Children are not only the face of the catastrophic refugee crisis that has spilled out from the Syrian civil war. Overwhelmingly, they are also its main victims, with tens of thousands forced to sleep rough, thousands more prey to exploitation – even sexual abuse – and an entire generation displaced by war, and ravaged by deprivation. The effects will take decades to undo.