With a long history of sectarian conflict, Lebanon’s situation has becoming increasingly more volatile as the Syrian civil war unfolds. Not only have hundreds of thousands refugees crossed the 360 kilometre-long Syrian-Lebanon border, but the conflict has also spilled over – from street fighting in Tripoli to bombings in Beruit.
While Lebanese officials attempt to maintain a principle of non-intervention in Syrian affairs to avoid a spillover of conflict, Lebanese NGOs have filled the gap, according to Professor Hala Naufal, author of a MPC study on Syrian refugees.
Unlike Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, there are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Various factions in Lebanese government have refused to set up camps, worried about the signals it could send to the Syrian government. Instead, about half of the refugees live in rented housing, while the other half are in nomadic camps or hosted by families or local communities. Only in January 2013 did the Lebanese cabinet vote to start registering refugees.
Aid to refugees is essentially provided by civil society, especially by people who have opened up their homes, and by the municipalities of the villages and towns. Refugees have set up in old houses and abandoned buildings.
Hala Naufal, Professor at Lebanese University, December 2012
The United Nations reports that over 900,000 Syrians are registered or awaiting registration as of mid-January 2013.
Syrian refugees now make up a quarter of Lebanon’s population.
Lebanon country study
- Hala Naufal
Professor Hala Naufal’s MPC study describes in detail the role played by civil society and aid agencies in Lebanon as well as local communities that have opened their door to refugees (see interviews below).
Civil Society: Interview with Dr Kamel Mohanna, President of Amel Association
Civil Society: Interview with Georges Khoury, President Caritas Lebanon
The Director of the Caritas in Lebanon discusses Lebanon’s response. Interview from December 2012.