Trapped in Between Lebanon and Syria. The Absence of Durable Solutions for Syria’s Refugees
Almost a decade into the war in Syria, Syrian refugees in Lebanon still find themselves in a precarious situation: continue to face a life of uncertainty and challenges in Lebanon, or return to Syria - if they can - and plunge themselves into another volatile situation they can hardly prepare for, and certainly not a situation that allows for a safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return.
Basmeh & Zeitooneh, along with several partners under the Refugee Protection Watch coalition umbrella, has been conducting longitudinal research efforts in order to better understand the conditions of Syrians who were able to return to Government-held Syria, as well as the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, using the UNHCR Protection Thresholds and Parameters for Refugee Return to Syria as the analytical framework– parameters that are used to assess the safety, dignity and voluntariness of the return process.
The result is a unique study based on the first-hand experiences of returnees as well as Syrian refugees and host communities across Lebanon. The findings present a thorough and disturbing overview of the dire plight of the approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and the small number of refugees that did return to Syria. The rapidly deteriorating situation in Lebanon, in addition to the lack of reliable information from Syria makes a voluntary and informed return decision impossible. It also becomes evident that Refugee returnees report a lack of material, physical and legal safety once back in Syria: they do not feel safe and secure in general, and many, particularly military-aged men, fear being arbitrarily detained; unemployment, poverty and hunger are widespread; over three quarters of returnees are aid-dependent; electricity, water and access to medical care are intermittent and unpredictable; psychological support is lacking; and the education system is not functioning, to name a few.
The combined impact of COVID-19 and the financial and economic crises in Lebanon and Syria have further exacerbated hardships.
The study concludes that Syrian refugees see no likelihood for a durable solution to end their displacement in the near future. They are stuck in limbo while conditions around them are worsening. Therefore, the international community, as well as local authorities, need to take urgent action to tackle the rapidly deteriorating situation of Syria’s displaced. In doing so, refugee-hosting countries, international institutions, and donors need to ensure and apply a holistic approach that recognizes that the 3 internationally-recognized durable solutions for displaced Syrians are inherently interlinked and should be actively and simultaneously promoted.
The Refugee Protection Watch is a coalition formed in 2019 by ALEF – Act for Human Rights, Basmeh and Zeitooneh, PAX, Upinion and 11.11.11. It brings together the strengths and experiences of Lebanese, Syrian and European organisations working in the human rights, peacebuilding, development and humanitarian fields, as well as a social profit enterprise (Upinion) specialised in digital data collection among (refugee) communities.
This report is the first in a series of other monitoring reports that will be published twice a year in the period of 2020-2021