Feature: Poor families live in cemetery with dead in Lebanon's Tripoli

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BEIRUT, March 20 (Xinhua) -- About 40 years ago, Khadija Talib, a Lebanese woman, moved with her husband and three children from their remote village to Tripoli, the largest city in northern Lebanon, in search for job opportunities and a better life.

However, their inability to afford the rent for a house in Tripoli soon banished the family to a tiny plot of land adjacent to the Cemetery of Strangers in the city, where they put up a tin roof as a makeshift shelter.

The Talib family was not alone in living near the cemetery after moving to Tripoli from their villages. With time, the area has turned into a neighborhood of run-down houses occupied by the low-income migrants in the Lebanese city.

"Some people here even have graves on their balconies," Talib told Xinhua.

The Cemetery of Strangers, established about 150 years ago on a land belonging to the Islamic endowment in Tripoli, is supervised by the body and has been designated a burial site for strangers whose families cannot afford their burials, a source from the Islamic endowment told Xinhua.

"We are trying by all legal means to remove the 500 families living in the cemetery today in order to preserve its sanctity," the source said on condition of anonymity.

The first thing that came into sight when getting close to the cemetery was some livestock and poultry raised by residents for generating income. Dozens of children were playing between the graves, with nasty odors emanating from pools of stagnant water on the ground.

The neighborhoods are not even equipped with proper electricity infrastructure and residents have to resort to private generators.

Riad Yamak, mayor of Tripoli, told Xinhua that they do not have solutions for now as "this problem needs a decision and budget from the government."

Khaled Obaid, a 65-year-old man, told Xinhua that he moved to the Cemetery of Strangers years ago and has stayed in a tin room with his four children.

"My children got married in the houses they built here. We are used to living with the graves. The dead do not bother us; we do not bother them either," Obaid said.

"I will stay here and I asked my children to bury me in front of this house after my death," he added. Enditem

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