Lebanon has the highest concentration of refugees per capita and specifically, the highest number of Syrian refugees in the world. As of November 11th, 2014, over a million Syrian refugees were registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the equivalent to more than a quarter of Lebanon’s resident population. The international community and UN agencies have acknowledged the vast impact this crisis has had on Lebanon.

The impact the crisis has had on Lebanon must be addressed in a manner that takes into account the needs of both the host country and the refugee population. It is necessary for the Lebanese government to design rights- based solutions in addressing the numerous difficulties Syrian refugees face in Lebanon.

Based on ALEF’s previous and ongoing work that documents the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, this policy paper focuses on the solutions to the crisis and provides a framework for relevant stakeholders. This is particularly critical, as there is no end in sight to the war in Syria, and the persistent lack of progress in finding alternative solutions increases the risk that Lebanese authorities will make decisions that undermine refugee rights and protections. However, some may see the fight to find solutions as impossible to achieve.

As more refugees flee to Lebanon it is imperative to take into account lessons learnt from previous state practices in cases of mass influx. Since Lebanon has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, referring to other bodies of norms, notably international human rights law (IHRL), becomes even more relevant. Most importantly, the present status quo is not sustainable and bears the risk of undermining Lebanon’s social cohesion and creating a conducive environment for extremism. It is paramount to stress that the Syrian refugee crisis cannot be used as a reason for the Lebanese government to violate non-refoulement  (forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution) and core IHRL obligations. Equally important, the international community has a responsibility to assist Lebanese authorities and host communities in dealing with the refugee crisis.  Rising tensions and economic deprivation caused by shifting demographics are increasing the risks of conflict. It is, therefore, important to reduce the numbers of Syrian refugees in Lebanon through consistent demographic burden- sharing. The UNHCR should intensify their efforts and advocate for durable solutions to the crisis.

This policy paper reviews existing legal and policy frameworks pertaining to the protection of refugees that are relevant to the design of a principled and rights based approach to find solutions for the Syrian refugee crisis. It analyses past mass influxes and the key components of policies supported by the international community and ALEF.

Position Paper on Solutions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Snapshot: Position Paper on Solutions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis – ARB
Snapshot: Position Paper on Solutions to the Syrian Refugee Crisis – ENG