Between the Camps and their Surroundings… The Drug Route is Open

Between the Camps and their Surroundings… The Drug Route is Open
*Palestinian journalist. Member of “The Palestinian Media Collective in Lebanon “Interact”.

The sale of hallucinogenic pills and the different kinds of drugs takes place at the corner of the street separating the Burj al-Barajneh camp and the Al-Anan area in the southern suburb of Beirut. This information is confirmed by the owner of a mini market on the same street. He said: “drug trafficking is very active at night. The drug dealer sits on the sidewalk. He smokes his hookah surrounded by a group of young people while his car speakers play loud music. The same scene is repeated every day. Everybody is annoyed especially that there are always quarrels between him and other dealers, and sometimes the fight develops into shooting”. 

There were many complaints, whether from the camp or the Lebanese neighborhoods, demanding an end to the situation. Indeed, the Lebanese and Palestinian security services pursued the drug dealers and detained most of them in the street and inside the camp. Of course, dealers got out of prison after a while, but they no longer operate freely like before. The sales modality changed during the past months. It is no longer public as it used to be. According to some camp residents, drug trafficking and sale take place today after coordination between the dealer and the buyer via WhatsApp, especially that the drug lords went out of sight. 
Pick-up and delivery map
Mona, who lives next to Burj al-Barajneh camp, noticed that at different times during the evening and all the way until dawn, a number of young men carrying small black bags, wait for others who come to hand in money and receive goods. Per Hussain, an anti-drug activist inside the camp, the primary source for drugs varies according to the market. He says: “drugs in the camp used to come from the al-Baalbakiya neighborhood in the southern suburb of Beirut. Al-Bourah point, located right behind Medco gas station, is also another source. Influential people members of political parties, or security agencies protect these areas. However, following frequent waves of arrests by the Lebanese security services, and after losing the political coverage, many dealers were arrested outside the camp.” According to Hussain, dealers inside the camp had to rely on local sources. This led to the establishment of a manufacturing plant to produce captagon pills and possibly export abroad. The plant is well known to the Palestinian factions and security authorities inside the camp. I have no idea why no one broke into that house yet?” said Hussain. Do the Palestinian factions protect it? Or is it protected by influential people from within the security forces?” He adds: “the camp has become a source for several types of drugs. As of today, we do not know yet the source of the raw materials used to manufacture such drugs.”
The same scenario, with slight differences, is repeated in other camps like Al-Badawi (north Lebanon), Shatila (Beirut), Al-Rashidiya (south Lebanon). The common denominator is that drugs come from abroad. Ramez, a senior member of a Palestinian organization in the Shatila camp, is surprised by what he describes as “the rapid spread” of this scourge and the low price of drugs inside the camps compared to prices elsewhere. According to Ramez, “drugs come to Shatila camp from four main points at the outskirts of the camp, each of which is under the authority of a drug dealer. “Goods” are brought inside mainly in motorcycles or in private cars. The fact that those traffickers dare to come to the camp in broad daylight to sell their drugs is a clear indicator that they are “covered” from political and security figures. Traffickers are collaborating with dealers from inside the camp, some of them are Palestinians, but there are other nationalities as well.”
In Northern Lebanon, the Baddawi camp, suffering from an overpopulation that exceeds by far its capacity since 2007 after receiving population fleeing Nahr al-Bared camp and later Syrian refugees fleeing the ongoing war, is due to its huge population a suitable place for drug traffickers to intensify their activity and sales.
“The drugs come from well-known sources. The main source is in Jabal Mohsen, where two dealers, the most prominent in the region, deliver drugs to traffickers inside the camp,” said Mazen, an activist within the youth movement inside the camp. He added: “Those dealers in Abu Al-Fouz Street are well known to the camp’s security forces.” From this location, drugs are distributed to the other dealers inside the camp, some of whom are affiliated with factions in the camp. The number of dealers inside the camp is estimated at seven.”
Security forces in Al-Baddawi camp arrested some small traffickers inside the camp, however, as of today, no dealers were arrested outside it, because they are not under the Palestinian security force authority, which in this case, entails legal prosecution by the Lebanese state. That explains the events of the recent incident when the Security forces lured a dealer to the camp borders where they set a well-planned ambush to catch him. The shooting took place, the dealer was hit in his head, and was then transferred for treatment to a hospital in the region.  Because the incident occurred outside the camp, the members of the Palestinian security forces must appear before the Lebanese judiciary and security authorities.
The Baddawi camp has two main entrances.  The northern entrance is by Mount Baddawi, and the western entrance is by Mount Mohsen/Alqoba. At both entrances, there are checkpoints set by the different Palestinian factions (the Popular Front – General Command and the Fatah Al-Intifada).  However, there are six unofficial entrances spread along the camp’s borders, and drugs are usually smuggled through these entrances. Smuggling often occurs at night. Drugs come from Jabal Mohsen, Almankoobeen, and Alqoba.  It must be noted that ahead of these entrances, there are checkpoints belonging to security services and, more precisely, the Lebanese army.  The drugs are crossing through these points very smoothly, as activists in the camp assert.  Just recently, smuggling has been active through women or university students.  A Palestinian official in the joint security force said that investigations confirmed that “drug dealers exploit girls and women to smuggle drugs in their clothes.”  The drugs come from different areas in the Beqaa to the Tabaneh in Tripoli.  It is transported by women in taxis to avoid raising suspicion from the army and the security services. Once inside the camp, the drugs are received by small traffickers in charge of distributing to dealers.
The traffickers and the dealers are from different nationalities:  Lebanese, Palestinians, and Syrians. The drug lord is known as the “Great Baron,” He insures large quantities. When security forces launch a raid arrest, small traffickers are arrested, and the mastermind is left untouched. The joint security force in Al-Baddawi camp has previously handed over about 155 persons involved in the drug trade.