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Although there have not been any attacks in recent months, the fear still looms large that radical elements will infiltrate the anonymous masses of refugees.

In August, a fierce battle pitted Lebanese soldiers against Syrian extremists who infiltrated the border town of Ersal. Sixteen soldiers were killed and dozens, wounded. Months after the clashes ended, extremists still hold some 29 soldiers and members of the police forces as hostages. These unresolved kidnappings impacted the way the Lebanese view Syrian refugees, even though the vast majority was not involved.

Suspicion toward refugees is also linked to a perceived increase in petty crime rates in many areas. Several municipalities have imposed curfews on Syrians, claiming their circulation at night poses security risks. The roots of tension are cultural and religious, too; sectarian balance among the various confessions remains fragile, and rights and privileges are jealously guarded.

“They are foreigners, they have different habits,” says Faten Alawi, 52, an unemployed widow who is responsible for a 12-year-old son and an ailing mother. Mrs. Alawi, who says she lost her job at a garment factory to two Syrian workers who agreed to work together for her $500 monthly salary, says she has not met any of the Syrian refugees living in her neighborhood.

Mrs. Alawi lives in the Palestinian camp of Dbayeh, a hilly neighborhood of modest one-story homes connected by narrow alleys. She is among poor Lebanese families who were displaced during the civil war who have been living for decades side by side with Christian Palestinian refugees.

In the past three years, this neighborhood of 500 families has seen the influx of around 60 Syrian families living in overcrowded homes.

“The situation is hopeless,” says Elias Habib, the director of the Joint Christian Committee for Social Service in Lebanon, a nongovernmental organization supported by CNEWA that runs educational, awareness and psychosocial activities for women and children in the Dbayeh camp.

“You hear of many young people who want to leave to work abroad, but it’s not easy,” he says.

A hallmark of Lebanese society for decades, acquiring work and immigration visas to Western countries or even the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf is a difficult process — especially for those Lebanese workers who may be uneducated and unskilled.

“I was used to a much higher standard. It’s tough to accept that I am poorer now,” says Tony Sayah, 45, a Lebanese contractor living in the Dbayeh camp.

Mr. Sayah, a father of a 12-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, says he has been working less and less since the influx of Syrians. “Syrian refugees easily beat my prices,” he says.

“They eat a biscuit or a sandwich all day long or sleep at the construction site,” he adds. “We can’t beat that.”

With governmental social services traditionally meager, the recently impoverished and unemployed have to rely on assistance from charity groups and religious institutions.

Johanna Ghyoot, a Belgian Little Sister of Nazareth, has provided health services to the residents of the Dbayeh camp since 2006. She has seen many Lebanese men such as Tony Sayah lose jobs in construction and in restaurants in recent months.

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