ARUN RATH, HOST:
More than 4 million people have been displaced by the war in Syria, according to the U.N. At least a quarter of them have fled into neighboring Lebanon. NPR's Jason Beaubien has been visiting some of the refugee settlements along the border. He joins me from Beirut. Jason, how much of an impact are the Syrian refugees having in Lebanon?
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: The thing to remember here is that Lebanon is a tiny country. You know, it's just this little sliver of land between southern Syria and the Mediterranean. The population was just over 4 million people before this crisis started, and now, by some estimates, you're getting up to 2 million refugees have flooded into the country. And, you know, if you imagine this in the United States, this would be, like, 90 million people flooding in, so it's - you know, it's having a huge impact here.
RATH: And in this small country, they'd already been home to thousands of Palestinian refugees for years before this.
BEAUBIEN: That's right, you know, and this country isn't very big. It's had this really tumultuous history. It's still facing plenty of problems on its own. You know, it hasn't had a president for more than a year. It's got this huge garbage crisis going on at the moment. And now you've got one out of every four people here is a refugee.
RATH: Wow. So explain how that plays out. Are you seeing tension between the Lebanese hosts and the Syrian refugees?
BEAUBIEN: Yeah, I think what's happening here is people's patience with this whole crisis is really sort of wearing out. I think early on, the Lebanese were very welcoming, but one real striking example that we had was we're out out at this camp near the Syrian border. And the night before, the local municipality had told everyone in this settlement that they had to pack up their shacks. They're basically these structures that they've made out of tarps and plastic, you know, around these pieces of wood. And tell everyone, you got 24 hours to pack up and leave.
And that didn't actually end up happening, but it just shows the tension. You know, people are feeling like these settlements are taking too much water. They're concerned about these open sewers that are flowing through them. People are complaining that the Syrian refugees are coming here, and they're having babies, and the population is just growing and growing.
You know, and to give the Syrian refugees their due, we were with a woman from World Vision - the aid agency World Vision - and women were coming up to her and saying, we want contraception. Is there some way we can get contraception? But don't have any money, you know. They're not legally allowed to work here. So there's these incredible tensions that are going on, and it's growing - the tension between the local hosts and this huge population of Syrians who have come in.
RATH: You know, a lot of these refugees have been living in Lebanon for quite some time. The crisis in Syria's been going on for more than four years. Are any of these people planning to return?
BEAUBIEN: You know, right now, we are not hearing that at all. It's one of the amazing things about sort of getting a different perspective on this. When you come to the region, you really see that this crisis in Syria, this war in Syria, this fighting between all of these different factions - Kurdish militias and Shia militias and the government forces and rebels - you know, all of this is really raging.
You're hearing about battles on an ongoing basis. And what we're hearing from Syrians that are here is that they have no intention of going back. They're terrified. And thus, you're not going to see an end to this refugee crisis until you actually see some progress in the war. And the war just seems to be raging fully over there, across the border.
RATH: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Beirut. Jason, thank you.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.