According to the UNHCR, by the end of September 2013, there were over 700,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and more than a million on Lebanese territory. Three quarters of the refugee population are women and children, spread out over 1,200 locations in Lebanon. Most of the Syrian refugees live in the Bekaa valley and North governorates.
The influx of Syrian refugees in 2013 rapidly transformed an emergency into a crisis, worsened by a shortage of funding by regional and international donors. Furthermore, there is no legal protection framework in place for refugees in Lebanon, given that Lebanon is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 protocol. Currently, the UNHCR is pushing for a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to create protection-friendly policies for Syrian refugees. The limited resources available have pushed UNHCR and partners to cut back on assistance to families, and to target only the most vulnerable.
In this report, ALEF raises concerns over the following trends: Syrian refugees’ UNHCR registration cards do not entitle them to refugee status, thus their stay is still based on the Lebanese residency law which requires constant renewal. The refoulement (forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution) of some refugees at the border by the General Security, imposition of illegal curfews by municipalities on Syrian nationals, and rising levels of violence and retaliation against Syrian refugees within host communities are all challenges which refugees in Lebanon face today. These challenges are coupled with issues which put more vulnerable refugees at risk, such as the increased vulnerability of women and girls into forced and early marriages, as well as survival sex, and various forms of gender-based violence. Although stakeholders have facilitated access to social services, the strain on educational and health services has resulted in decreased quality and shortage of supply.
The international community and UN agencies have relied on Lebanon’s tolerance for accepting Syrian refugees. They encourage and reinforce ‘hosting’ solutions, while ‘resettlement’ remains a non?viable option for regional and Western governments, and refugees alike. This leaves host states such as Lebanon under constant economic and social strain, and increases the risks of conflict.. However, as can be noted in the changes in local responses and reactions to the Syrian refugee crisis two years on, resilience is a finite resource if coupled with insecurity of communities and economic deprivation. The broader goal of providing protection to Syrian refugees can no longer be realized without addressing Lebanon’s social and economic concerns.