De sekteriske motsetningene i Syria har allerede spredt seg til Libanon. Syriske sunni-arabeidere føler seg så utsatt at de rømmer shia-dominerte områder. Truslene er ikke innbilning. De omsettes i praksis.

Syrerne gikk for å være pålitelige, dyktige og de arbeidet for halve betalingen. Derfor var det mange av dem. Flere hundre tusen, sies det.

The Syrian workers who once thronged Beirut’s southern suburbs have fled, local residents say, in what analysts see as a disturbing sign of how the uprising is spilling over into other countries in the region.

“Syrian laborers have been harassed in Shia areas, and I understand that many of them have left the deep south and the southern suburbs of Beirut,” said Hilal Khashan, professor of political science at the American University of Beirut.

No reliable statistics are available on the size of Lebanon’s Syrian labor force, which has historically moved back and forth across the border. But long before the present political crisis eviscerated the Syrian economy, hundreds of thousands of Syrians — a majority Sunni Muslim population — worked in neighboring Lebanon, especially in the booming construction sector.

Paradoksalt nok bodde mange av sunni-syrerne i Hizbollah-kontrollerte områder. Men ikke lenger.

The kidnapping of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in a rebel-controlled area of Syria in May exacerbated tensions, which remain high. This week, relatives of the hostages, who are still in captivity, staged a protest in southern Beirut calling for their release.

One Syrian migrant worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was returning to his home in the southern suburbs the night of the kidnapping. He said a man got on the bus and asked the driver whether any Syrians were on board. The driver pointed toward him and another passenger, and they were taken off the bus. He said he was held for more than an hour while his captors talked about whether to kill them. “One was saying, ‘We are going to slaughter you,’ and then the other would say, ‘No, let’s not kill them,’ ” he recalled.

That night he and some other Syrians slept in a building together for safety, but people were shouting taunts outside their window. Eventually, he said, a Lebanese friend came to rescue him, and he hasn’t been back to the area since.

Hizbollahs leder, Hassan Nasrallah, har bedt om at syrerne ikke plages. Men han blir ikke hørt.

local business owners say their staff no longer feel safe enough to stay in the southern suburbs.

“Too many got beaten up,” said a cafe owner who has lost his Syrian workers. “Before, if you wanted a hundred you could have them in a minute. Now, politics is playing a role.” Some of those now fleeing the Hezbollah-controlled suburbs are said to have gone back to Syria, while others are thought to have moved to other areas in Beirut.

In the overcrowded working-class neighborhoods of politically volatile Lebanon, however, being an outsider of any kind means being vulnerable, even among people of the same sect.

Meldingene fra Libanon er urovekkende. Konflikten i Syria sprer seg til Libanon på den mest gutwrenching måte.

Syrian tensions spill over into Lebanon