RPW 3RD ANNUAL REPORT | 2022 : Endless Refuge and Unsafe Homecoming
The Ongoing Syrian Refugee Crisis
The Syrian refugee crisis, now in its eleventh year, continues to be one of the most significant humanitarian challenges worldwide. With approximately 6.8 million Syrian refugees currently residing outside Syria's borders, it stands as the second-largest refugee crisis globally. Additionally, within Syria itself, another 6.9 million individuals have been internally displaced, indicating that more than half of the Syrian population is still fleeing the devastating consequences of war and persecution.
The Impact on Lebanon: Overwhelming Challenges
Among the neighboring countries, Lebanon has been disproportionately affected by the forced displacement crisis in Syria. The nation faces a convergence of economic, health, and political crises, which have placed an immense strain on its limited resources and the well-being of its people. These overlapping crises exacerbate the challenges faced by Syrian refugees seeking safety and stability within Lebanon. Meanwhile, the need for humanitarian assistance for refugees in host countries has reached an all-time high, and conditions necessary for a safe and dignified return to Syria are yet to be established.
Growing Focus on Returns Programming: A Complex Situation
Despite the prevailing conditions that do not ensure a safe, voluntary, dignified, and informed return to Syria, there has been an increasing emphasis on returns programming across the United Nations. This emphasis is highlighted by the recent adoption of an "Area-Based Return Support" (ABRS) Roadmap. Nevertheless, this growing focus on returns puts additional pressure on Syrian refugees residing in Lebanon to return to Syria, even though the circumstances are not conducive to their well-being.
Escalating Harmful Practices
Simultaneously, a concerning trend of harmful practices has emerged, including the pushbacks of displaced persons at European borders, forced deportations from host countries, and policies that deprive Syrian refugees of necessary protection. At the borders of the European Union, refugees from Syria, as well as other countries, often encounter unwelcoming and inhumane treatment. This starkly contrasts with the "open border" approach adopted for Ukrainian refugees currently fleeing their own conflict with Russia. These developments form the backdrop against which the Refugee Protection Watch (RPW) coalition has been conducting longitudinal research, aiming to shed light on the living conditions, experiences, and perceptions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, as well as the challenges they face.
Limited Spontaneous Returns: Assessing the Situation
Despite the deteriorating humanitarian and protection situation in neighboring countries, the number of Syrians opting to return to Syria remains remarkably low. According to UNHCR data, between 2016 and October 15, 2022, only 344,133 Syrian refugees returned to Syria in a "spontaneous" manner. This accounts for less than 1% of the 5.7 million Syrian refugees residing in host countries over the past three years. Furthermore, UNHCR's most recent return intention survey conducted in June 2022 reveals that a mere 1.7% of displaced Syrians in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt express an intention to return to Syria within the next 12 months.
- RPW 3RD ANNUAL REPORT | 2022 : Endless Refuge and Unsafe Homecoming