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“I did not care which nation she was from. She was a good girl who would make my son happy,” says Aida Yassin, smiling at her daughter-in-law.

Although they feel grateful, they wish they had the means to have another child.

“Mike gets lonely. He loves to play with other kids, but I cannot afford to send him to a child care center,” Lina Barakat says.

Several miles away, Mrs. Barakat’s parents and brother reside in a one-bedroom apartment. Her father Elias Barakat, 54, suffers from ulcers and remains unemployed after a decades-long career as an electrician in Syria. Her mother, Montaha, 53, battles diabetes and is likewise unemployed. They depend on their son Issam, 33, who earns $20 a day painting homes in the Lebanese capital of Beirut. His income, however, is erratic, leaving gaps when there is no work or when he falls ill.

Issam spends up to three hours commuting to work each day. In addition to rent and other daily expenses, Issam pays an annual fee of $600 to the Lebanese General Security Office to be able to work in the country.

Asked if he would like to get married, he smirked.

“How can I? With what money?”

As do many refugees, Issam dreams of traveling out of the region altogether, to a Western country. But resettlement is very difficult. The fraction of refugees integrated into most European countries, Australia, Canada or the United States remains very small.

Many others hope to go back to their hometowns when the situation improves, even if they see no prospects for a political solution in the horizon. However, Christians in particular say they fear for their lives back in Syria with extremists in control of many areas still.

This leaves many with no choice but to stay in Lebanon, which, according to officials and aid workers, has reached alarming limits in its capacity to integrate refugees.

Yet life must go on.

“I still make kibbeh,” Issam’s mother, Montaha Barakat says, referring to a Levantine dish made of bulgur or cracked wheat, minced onions and finely ground meat. “But very often I replace meat with mashed potatoes,” she adds.

“What I miss most is making meals for my family and friends.”

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A frequent contributor to ONE, Beirut-based Raed Rafei is a journalist and independent filmmaker whose writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Forbes Arabia and The Lebanese Daily Star.



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