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Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon speak with RI.


Like Syria and Jordan, Lebanon has served as a host country for both Iraqi refugees and Palestinians. No stranger to upheaval itself, Lebanon has seen ongoing conflict of varying intensities for decades, while Syrian troops only withdrew from the country in 2005 after considerable disagreement among Lebanese. The two countries are also tied together by large populations of Syrian migrant workers, who go back and forth on a regular basis. Many Lebanese communities close to Syria depend upon this cross-border commerce and employment to survive.

Current Humanitarian Situation

As of July 2013, more than half a million Syrian refugees have registered in Lebanon. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners – including the Lebanese government – have been providing assistance with food, shelter and medical care, as most Syrians arrived with few resources and little money. Many of the refugees were received by Lebanese host families or supported by communities with strong ties to Syria and its people. But the conflict in Syria halted cross-border trade and employment, leaving the Lebanese with few resources to spare.

By the summer of 2012, these host communities had largely exhausted their ability to support more people, and Lebanese government funds for refugees had run dangerously low. Syrian refugees continue to arrive through Lebanon’s open border, and aid agencies and NGOs are struggling to meet their needs while supporting the host communities.

Iraqi refugees in Lebanon receive services from the UNHCR, but their long-term situation holds few prospects for self-sufficiency or safe return to Iraq. Refugees in Lebanon are not entitled to work permits, and have to compete with a large population of migrant workers even for illegal employment with sub-standard wages. Iraqis are also vulnerable to detention for being in the country without valid documentation. Iraqi refugees can be resettled out of Lebanon, but the process can be very slow.

Approximately 400,000 Palestinians remain in Lebanon in a dozen camps, some of which have existed for more than 50 years. The rights of Palestinians in Lebanon are limited, and the majority live In dismal living conditions in restricted areas. With little political or economic power, the residents of the camps remain heavily dependent upon humanitarian aid for survival.

Field Reports
  • 10/29/2014

    About 850,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled the conflict in central Iraq to seek safety further north in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).  They are scattered across the KRI in a variety of temporary housing situations: though a small number of them are in camps, most live informally in local schools, unfinished buildings, and public parks. Half a million of them are in the city of Dohuk alone. The great majority of these 850,000 internally displaced are members of religious minorities – Christians from the Ninewa Plains and Yazidis from the Sinjar area, in particular.

  • 02/04/2014
    With the support of donor states and the humanitarian community, the Kurdistan Regional Government and Jordan have done a remarkable job in responding to the immediate challenges of the refugee influx. But the limitations of emergency assistance are becoming clear. A new and longer-term approach is now required – one that gives more attention to the situation of refugees living outside of camps, provides greater support to the communities most directly affected by the refugees’ presence, and entails more extensive engagement by development organizations.
In Depth Reports
  • 04/15/2008
    Five years after the US -led invasion, Iraq remains a deeply violent and divided society. Faced with one of the largest displacement and humanitarian crises in the world, Iraqi civilians are in urgent need of assistance. Particularly vulnerable are the 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis who have fled their homes for safer locations inside Iraq.
  • 03/22/2007
    Four years after the U.S. launched its attack against Iraq, the civil war there has produced a humanitarian crisis marked by the world’s fastest growing refugee and internally displaced populations. But Iraq, Washington and the U.N. do not acknowledge the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis. This has led to an inadequate response, both within Iraq and in the region.
RI has consistently recommended more support for services that assist Syrian refugees outside of camps. Even as many large aid agencies and non-governmental organizations established programming in camps, RI repeatedly noted the lack of support for those living outside of them and requested that donors and service providers pay more attention to this enormous population. Finally, as part of its 2014 regional response plan for Syria, the UN Refugee Agency announced that it would specifically focus more of its efforts on non-camp refugees in the region.