Syrian refugees face wave of racism in Egypt, Lebanon

A wave of xenophobia is blighting the lives of thousands of Syrian refugees in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon.

Beirut: A wave of xenophobia is blighting the lives of thousands of Syrian refugees in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon, where they are often blamed for anything that goes wrong.

In Egypt, Syrians are accused of taking sides and interfering in the country`s political crisis, while in Lebanon they are accused of taking the jobs of Lebanese.

Egyptian media have played an instrumental role in spreading anti-Syrian sentiment, accusing them of joining protests in support of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi, removed by the Army on July 03 after huge protests, rose through the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood -- a key component of the opposition in Syria.

"We must boycott Syrian shops because they use our money to terrorise us," reads one text message distributed via social networks.

"Several unemployed Syrians have been paid 300 Egyptian pounds (USD 43) by the Muslim Brotherhood`s Guidance Bureau to take part in (pro-Morsi) protests," the message adds.

The message also accuses Syrians of using weapons supplied to the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad`s regime in clashes in Egypt between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters.

The tone can be just as harsh on Egyptian television.

"If you continue to stand by the Brotherhood, the people will destroy your homes," controversial presenter Tawfik Okasha said on the privately owned Al-Faraeen channel.

"The people are not ready to accept agents or spies undermining their victory" against Morsi, Okasha added.

The massively popular ONTV, also privately owned, has aired anti-Syrian rants.

"Syrians, if you meddle in our affairs, our boots will kick you in the streets," journalist Yousef al-Husseini said.

Both Husseini and ONTV later apologised.

The anti-Assad Syrian Journalists` Association has called on Egyptians not to "generalise and stigmatise hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees".

But "right now, the Egyptians believe that being Syrian equals being Muslim Brotherhood", said Abu Yasser, a young Syrian living in Egypt.

Known best for his stinging criticism of the Brotherhood, Egypt`s famous satirist Bassem Yousef has also hit out against the growing anti-Syrian sentiment, blaming "certain liberals, who hate the Muslim Brotherhood, of reproducing the same fascism and the same racism".

Cairo has now imposed new visa regulations requiring Syrians to apply for a visa.