Lebanon’s Policies towards Syrian Refugees: The Rights to Work and to Education

For many years, Lebanese communities have been helpful to the international community, accepting refugees from crises prone areas into their country. Lebanon and Syria are two distinct nations bounded by significant family ties and mutually created history. However, with the increasing influx of refugees into Lebanon, it has taken a toll on many facets, adding to the numerous governmental and developmental challenges. It’s a strain that has caused a huge security threat to Lebanese, who begin to consider Syrian refugee as problems to be pushed back into Syria.

Western communities may have helped by providing aid to Lebanon, but more needs to be done to reverse the negative portrayal and treatment of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

ARRIVAL OF SYRIAN REFUGEES TO LEBANON SINCE 2011

Amnesty International puts a whopping 835,735 figure to the number of Syrian refugees being hosted by Lebanon as at December 5, 2013. Other Gulf nations such as Jordan also bear this toll, carrying a Syrian refugee population of 566,303 as at December 9.

Lebanon is going through its struggles and the refugees are adding a lot more pressure on the government. The country has limited water and sewage facilities, public schools, hospitals and other utilities, and generally poor infrastructure. The World Bank stated that the growing refugee population is predicted to increase poverty and unemployment in the region. It’s worthy of note that Lebanon faces one of the highest debt ratios in the world.  

The conflict in Syria has caused huge negative impacts on the security and political stability in Lebanon, mostly in border areas, where at least 10 people were killed and 49 injured in several attacks.

The Syrian refugee crises can be attributed to one cause alone: the ongoing war in Syria. The conflict started as demonstrations against the government of Bashar al-Assad, in March of 2011. With the government spitting fire and responding with violence, the crisis quickly escalated and forced groups into armed conflict. Regional heavyweights such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey took interest in the war, and it intensified, escalating to a proxy war between the giants. International giants as well would join in, with United States and Russia taking the different sides of the conflict. According to a 2017 report by the United Nations,  more than 250,000 people have been killed and over 1.2 million injured.

The war has taken a new turn with the introduction of various sectarian armed Islamic fighters who battle Assad’s troops. The most popular are the terrorist Sunni groups ISIS and the al-Nusra Front. However, Shi’ite groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iranian backed groups are waging the war alongside the Iranian government.

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST SYRIAN REFUGEES

Syrian refugees make up a quarter of the Lebanese population. Presently, there are around 1,070,000 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon and a rough estimate of about 400,000 unregistered Syrian refugees. This is an alarming figure when placed side by side with the population of Lebanon: 5,850,000. The twist is that Lebanon has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention Act and requires help to register refugees. Also, though the nation is bound to the customary law prohibition acts, it has constantly refused full legal extension of coverage to refugees.

The Lebanese government has been fingered severally in reports that provide evidence that it sets harsh policies towards refugees. Based on the current dive in number of refugees, as a response to the government’s policies, it’s obvious that the percentage of Syrian refugees who possess residency permits dropped from 58% to 21% in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively. (Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon 2016).Residency permit are the only way a Syrian refugee can move about legally. Without it, they are vulnerable to arrest and deportation.

Several solutions have been proffered in response to the dire situation. Among them, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) which was adopted in 2015 as a partnership between the Lebanese Government, international and local partners have taken up aiding several sectors including food, education, energy, security, protection, shelter, water and social stability (Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2017-2020).

LACK OF PROTECTION AND SUPPORT

In 2016 aloneover US $73 million was invested in 240 municipalities across Lebanon to strengthen service delivery 

The Syrian Crises has caused an explosion in population, doubling the size of 56 Lebanese cadasters and increasing between 50% and 100% in other 84 Cadasters. Only problem is the regions within these cadasters have stretched resourced as it were: 57% had no administrative structure, 70% were incapable of providing basic services.

The LCRP therefore have takes some of this burden upon themselves too and now has prioritized support to public institutions at the grassroots.

However, despite many related achievements, LCRP partners still facing multiple mountains attributed to shortage in funding or generally epileptic funding. A lot more funds are needed to cater for the teeming refugee population, to deliver water, food and energy that will spring up new communities in the country.