Versión clásicaVersión móvil
OpenEdition Books

Atlas of Lebanon

Part 2 - Population and migration

The Integration of Refugees in Lebanon: A Highly Precarious Situation

Fabrice Balanche y Éric Verdeil

Texto completo

1Whether one looks at access to housing, employment, or schooling, the integration of Syrian refugees is precarious and leads to massive impoverishment, even though there is every indication that their presence in Lebanon is going to last. The Lebanese government has toughened its originally generous policies, as the impact on the Lebanese society has become heavier. International aid has been considerable but tends to wane, leaving the future shrouded in uncertainty.

Employment and education

2Despite a common language, access to the job market remains very difficult and is limited to informal employment because of a legal ban preventing refugees from working. For lack of a proper residence permit, a lot of Syrians cannot move about to look for work, especially in the peripheral regions where there are few opportunities outside of the agricultural sector. Moreover, the work market in Lebanon has itself not been buoyant. Syrians, the majority of which are low-skilled workers, mostly find jobs in the construction sector and secondarily in the agricultural and industrial ones. By accepting very low wages, without access to social welfare, they compete with other Arab migrants (from Egypt, Sudan), the number of which has decreased, and with low-skilled Lebanese workers. Even the more qualified refugees have difficulty finding a job for lack of social connections.

3The refugee population is also marked by its youthfulness. For these children, teenagers and even more these students, access to education is a major issue. While the Lebanese government has opened public schools to refugees, including through the alternating use of buildings, the curricula differ, in part because of the importance given to foreign languages in the Lebanese curriculum. First and foremost, many refugees cannot pay for even minimal school-related costs. The education of an entire generation is sacrificed, especially when it comes to girls. Numerous weddings involving very young girls have regularly been reported in the press.

4Admittedly, the arrival of more than one million refugees has a ripple effect on the economy as it boosts food and consumer-goods production. Furthermore, international aid generates major financial flows which fuel the local economy. But the presence of the refugees can also lead to strong competition and social downgrading for the less affluent Lebanese citizens. The Syrian Civil War has a part in the stagnation of Lebanese exports while local instability weighs on tourism and investments, especially from the Gulf region. Macroeconomic studies conducted in 2014 revealed that the overall impact has been rather negative on the country’s economy.

Figure II-14: Employment by business sector in Lebanon in 2014

Figure II-14: Employment by business sector in Lebanon in 2014

Figure II-15: Age distribution among Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees in 2014

Figure II-15: Age distribution among Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees in 2014

A changing policy context

5At first, the reception of Syrian refugees took place easily, in the continuity of past experiences with migrant workers, and no visa being required. The first refugees were welcomed with a vast movement of solidarity, in the remembrance of the welcome received by Lebanese refugees during the Civil War and in 2006.

6However, worrying about the infiltration of terrorists, the Lebanese government opted straightaway for a security-oriented approach. For fear of reproducing what happened with the Palestinian refugees, it has opposed the setting-up of large-scale camps, unlike Jordan and Turkey. As a result, it has been up to the families, NGOs and municipalities to deal with the concrete issues related to their arrival: food provision, infrastructures, schooling. Since June 2014, internal political one-upmanship and the increasing impact of the refugees’ presence has led to hardened stances. Syrians now need to get a visa, they lose their refugee status if they travel to Syria and some have to pay $200 every year for their residence permit, an amount far too large for most of them.

7Assistance has been given by municipalities and NGOs in the form of money transfers and in-kind donations. Parts of it have been handed out to host communities, on the basis of the observation that large portions of the Lebanese population have also been affected by poverty and with the objective of improving housing conditions (for example by extending housing units) and infrastructures (water network, sanitation). In 2013, international aid transferred through the United Nations exceeded one billion dollars. In addition, some Arab Gulf countries have also been providing assistance but in a more scattered manner; these flows have been harder to trace, leading some observers to say that they have sometimes benefited armed groups connected with the Syrian opposition. However, the intensity of the international effort has been dwindling. In 2014 and 2015, the funds received and distributed by the United Nations decreased. Money transfers also fell off from 30 to $21.6 per person and the eligibility conditions have been limited, making the refugees’ situation ever more precarious. Only 55% of them benefited from them in 2015, as opposed to 75% in 2014.

8Despite the hardened stances, the tensions linked to the involvement of Lebanese actors in the Syrian civil war and to its local impacts, the shock related to the inflow of Syrian refugees has been absorbed for now, without any major conflict. Faced with a deadlock in Syria and the temporary opening of some European borders, many Syrian refugees (and some Lebanese citizens) have tried their luck and emigrated to Germany, as well as, to a lesser extent, Scandinavian countries.

Figure II-16: Evolution of the aid given by UN organizations for Syrian refugees

Figure II-16: Evolution of the aid given by UN organizations for Syrian refugees

Figure II-17: Requested funding and received amounts according to the LCRR

Figure II-17: Requested funding and received amounts according to the LCRR

Índice de ilustraciones

Título Figure II-14: Employment by business sector in Lebanon in 2014
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13228/img-1.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 63k
Título Figure II-15: Age distribution among Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees in 2014
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13228/img-2.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 38k
Título Figure II-16: Evolution of the aid given by UN organizations for Syrian refugees
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13228/img-3.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 28k
Título Figure II-17: Requested funding and received amounts according to the LCRR
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13228/img-4.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 37k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2019

Condiciones de uso: http://www.openedition.org/6540