Last year when I visited Greece and worked on the island of Lesvos, I worked in Camp Moria, a camp unaffiliated with the United Nations Refugee Organization (UNHCR). Camp Moria was located just next-door to an official UNHCR camp, the largest UNHCR camp on the island, in fact. Camp Moria was set up as a way to assist those that the official camp was not able to allow in. The UNHCR did not deal with these refuge-seekers and so it fell upon the support of volunteers to organize the camp and it’s infrastructure and to support these helpless people.
In Lebanon, no one is officially given “refugee” status. This would mean, for the government, conceding a certain set of rights to entirely too many Muslims inside a Christian majority nation. The Lebanese government hasn’t done so with the Palestinians who have been seeking asylum in Lebanon since the 1940s and they are not doing it for the Syrians who have migrated into the country since the war started over five years ago.
Because non-UNHCR camps are not able to establish refugee status, Lebanon makes it particularly difficult for helpless people to receive foreign aid. The UN can not officially be in the country helping these people by setting up their own camps so the problem is left to local NGOs to set up shop and deal with this massive issue. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. Still, some have pushed forward and there is good work being done by incredible organizations and courageous people.