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It is in Akabieh, locals say, where prostitution among refugees is so widespread it is considered common. With the numbers of refugees still growing, they fear the illicit practice will taint their mostly conservative Shiite community.
The refugees in the area dismiss the allegations as the inventions of outside groups seeking to discredit them and sequester their aid money. In Akabieh, Syrian refugee Khalife Dubbie was adamant that no such practice went on under his watchful eye. But Wassim, a Bisserieh municipality worker who provided only his first name, said he had been documenting the rise of prostitution in the area. The cars, bearing Lebanese license plates, typically pick up five to six refugee women at a time from the building, Wassim told The Daily Star.
His concern, that prostitution would lead to the preponderance of other serious crimes, went unheeded when he called the local authorities. The sensitivity of the issue, as tensions between Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees continue to fester across the country, was not lost on the municipality worker. The subject of prostitution is already creating friction within the municipality, said Bisserieh Mayor Fadi Mshawrab, who receives complaints from the local residents.
Many prostitution rings employing Syrians operate inconspicuously in residential apartments where neighbors are not well acquainted. However, she soon grew curious about the handfuls of women who would come to stay with her for extended periods of time. Suspicions rose further in the neighborhood due to the number of cars that would come by at night to pick up the girls. The covert nature of human trafficking networks makes the delicate line between prostitution and sexual exploitation difficult to discern.
Out of a total of 86 victims documented by the ISF since , some 56 were Syrian. After the onslaught of the Syrian civil war, the numbers increased, jumping to 27 in from eight in Another 27 victims were reported in Within the first six months of , 16 victims have already been reported.