Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

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Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

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News Article

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Cairo Studies on Migration and Refugees

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This review of one year influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon is meant to reveal the political, communitarian and humanitarian factors that shape the State of Lebanon's policy towards it. The Lebanese government has lately adopted a ‘disassociation’ policy regarding the Syrian conflict with the objective of preventing the spill-over of the conflict and the destabilization of the country. Regional and international powers well understand the reasons for this policy, given Lebanon's geopolitical situation, its history and its 'special ties' with Syria. However, while Lebanon might be able to disassociate itself from the political entanglement of the Syrian crisis, it cannot distance itself from dealing with the growing numbers of Syrian refugees on its territory. Since the beginning of the crisis, a policy of neglect has characterized the Lebanese government’s de facto relationship to the humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Their basic needs for shelter, education and medical assistance have been met by a combination of packages devised, without Lebanon’s participation, by the UN and the latter’s implementing partners. The Lebanese government has also allowed unsupervised religious charities to dominate refugee assistance, adding to a sectarian approach to the Syrian refugee crisis. This policy is beginning to feed back into the tensions that already divide ethnic and religious groups in the country. Against the background of these findings, this report analyzes the need for the Lebanese authorities to design an adequate refugee protection framework in consultation with the UNHCR and to devise a temporary protection status for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. A new agreement or Memorandum of Understanding between Lebanon and UNHCR should take into consideration Lebanon's complex history with refugees on its territory and the political consequences of hosting refugees of a neighboring state. This approach would facilitate Lebanon's obligation to abide by international refugee protection laws while, most importantly from the point of view of Lebanese sovereignty, prevent a further spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon. Consequently, such a framework could provide a model for an adequate regional response to other migration flows of Arab Spring refugees in the Middle East.

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