Lebanon 2017/2018
Fewer Refugees More Refugeeism
لبنان 2017/2018

لاجئون أقَلّ، لجوء أكثر
© 2017/2018 UMAM D&R
Arabic - English

In a decaying state such as Lebanon, the social-political actors that have helped run the country into the ground over the years are perpetually shifting blame onto others and seeking to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing. For the majority of these years, or decades rather, refugee groups have served as a scapegoat for the inept ruling class. It's easy to cast blame on the country's traditionally downtrodden group, something made even easier by their lack of rights or ability to meaningfully defend themselves. And yet, as Lebanese actors continue to place the country's woes at the feet of the refugees, no one agrees over how many refugees there actually are. Lebanon's state institutions and political officials cite data as diverse as the country's famed sectarian makeup, resulting in figures that vary by hundreds of thousands according to which "official" source is being consulted. In 2017, a study was undertaken to clear the obscurity surrounding these figures but in typical Lebanese fashion, the process was mired in disagreement between competing interest groups.

With "Lebanon 2017/2018: Fewer Refugees More Refugeeism," UMAM D&R catalogued the various developments related to the refugee populations, specifically the Palestinians and the Syrians, and showed that regardless of the real number of these populations, they represent an integral component of a lasting peace built upon a solid foundation rather than the precarious base assembled in the aftermath of the civil war. Some of these recent developments show that the status quo is not tenable, such as the clashes in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian camp, or that the international community will not help Lebanon solve its perpetual refugee issues, such as funding cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA), which focuses on the Palestinians. Lebanon must look at itself and reassess its track record of dealing with refugees.  

If Lebanon is to ever seriously handle contemporary problems, a process that requires a historical accounting of the legacies of war, it must objectively view the various components of Lebanese society, which include the Palestinian and Syrian refugees. A century ago Lebanon managed to sufficiently deal with its first refugee population, the Armenians, so why is it unable to deal with the Syrians and Palestinians today? The fact that the former were Christian while the latter are predominantly Sunni does play a role in constricting progress, but there is more to it. Local actors must take responsibility for their actions and accept blame when pertinent instead of simply pointing at the refugee population and using them as a perpetual scapegoat. This report helps grease the gears for such a process, stripping away the subjective, sectarian dressing that often accompanies the periodic refugee developments within Lebanon.

This publication is part of the Most Welcome? Lebanon Through Its Refugees initiative and was made possible thanks to funding from the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa).