The father initially flew from Damascus to Cairo, funded by private donors, seeking surgery for injuries caused by a bomb explosion in Syria. But Egypt would not grant his family visas, he said, so he had to return -- an increasingly common story among both Palestinians and Syrians in Egypt. (The country has become a main destination for refugees hoping to take boats to Europe for asylum. As such, the Egyptian government routinely imprisons and deports refugees, sometimes even back to Syria.)
His daughter, suffering from stomach infections, made wedding dresses back in Syria. Now, she sits meekly next to her father, her big brown eyes staring out the door.
Outside, a short walk away, three young Palestinian girls from Syria hold hands in the playground of the camp’s youth center. Before the war, they were strangers. Now, they are family.
While Palestinians fleeing Syria find a strong sense of community in Shatila, and in other Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, tensions are rising, warns social worker Manar Shamieh, who has worked in Shatila all her life. Already scarce essentials like electricity, water, food, jobs and housing are harder to come by with the influx of refugees. Rent is rising, and many long-term residents blame recent arrivals from Syria. Seemingly every day, more Palestinians come to Shatila.
On one winding street in the camp, a fluorescent mural pops out of a concrete wall. Hovering above a painted city reads the Arabic phrase: "How many times will you travel, and for what dream?"
The words are taken from a poem by famed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, his words a commentary on death, identity and exile.
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