Refugee Crises in the Arab World

Marwan Muasher and Maha Yahya

Featured Commentators

Special thanks to contributing authors Jean Kassir and Khalil el-Hariri.

Overview

Conflict has become a hallmark of the contemporary Middle East, forcing millions of individuals from their homes. Of the 60 million displaced people worldwide, close to 40 percent originate from the Arab region, mainly Syria and Palestine.1 Globally, the scale of the crisis has highlighted the deficiencies of international covenants for addressing the political and humanitarian ramifications of mass population movements. Regionally, it has placed frontline countries under considerable duress as they struggle to care for vulnerable and destitute populations. For the refugees, the crisis has resulted in a systematic decline in their rights, the quality of their lives, and in the educational standards and the future prospects of their children.

Broadly speaking, the dramatic growth in refugee population in the Arab region has fanned preexisting existential fears in host countries. In Lebanon and Jordan, governments in these two frontline countries have been left grappling with a mass influx of Syrian refugees at a time of diminished resources and depleted capacities. In the absence of regional frameworks to address this crisis, and amid fears of prolonged displacement, most countries in the region have responded with a nonintegration paradigm that seeks to return refugees to their countries of origin. This has meant policies that limit the access refugees have to services and undercut the rights accorded to them internationally. Despite being at the forefront of the crisis, municipalities in Lebanon and Jordan have also lacked the necessary support from central governments to meet the needs of Syrian refugees. The paucity of clear guidelines defining the scope of municipal authorities resulted in varied local responses shaped by municipal councils’ political affiliations and the localities’ sociopolitical specificities.

Meanwhile, because of security concerns, countries have sought to limit refugee flows. Previously open borders have been placed under strict control or closed altogether, severely restricting the cross-border flow of people and goods. The emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria resulted in a collapse of border management between the two countries. However, these closures and restrictions have not prevented the informal flow of refugees but rather have fueled human smuggling networks across borders.2 

To respond to this crisis, this chapter underlines three clusters of policy recommendations. While the analysis and these recommendations are focused on the Syrian context, which has generated the most refugees, the policy proposals have a broader applicability.

International and Regional Frameworks for Burden and Responsibility Sharing

International instruments for managing the refugee crisis fall short of current challenges, including protecting vulnerable populations and managing the impact on frontline countries. A transformative vision is needed, backed by a sustained political and financial global commitment, to protect people from the vagaries of their own governments and to ensure dignified lives for those escaping the horrors of conflict. This requires international systems of solidarity and clear principles for burden sharing, far beyond what has been the case thus far. Such principles would include commitments from governments to support refugees in keeping with their capacities. They would also include a clear regional framework of cooperation that allows refugees free movement and access to employment and services throughout the region. A precedent for such a framework already exists in the 1965 Casablanca Protocol, which was meant to address Palestinian refugee rights.

National Reallocation of Power and Resources

National governments also have a role to play in dealing with the fallout from this crisis. Addressing the burdens placed on them while supporting the fundamental rights of vulnerable—often at risk—populations requires a transformative vision and willingness to undertake the necessary change. For countries hosting large numbers of refugees, this is a difficult but not insurmountable task. Rethinking governance structures to address long-standing bottlenecks, devolve decisionmaking to the local authorities, and better institutional coordination at all levels are central to this process.

Safeguarding Refugee Rights

Finally, protecting the right of refugees to return to their homes should be a cornerstone of any discussion about a postconflict settlement. Empowering refugees with knowledge of their rights and with how to engage meaningfully in a postconflict Syria is central to a sustainable peace in Syria and the region. In the interim, the preservation of refugee status under specific conditions, as well as guarantees for the freedom of movement and labor rights, should also be a cornerstone for any durable solution.

Maha Yahya
Yahya is director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, where her research focuses on citizenship, pluralism, and social justice in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings.
More >

International and Regional Framework for Burden and Responsibility Sharing

Amid vicious and increasingly intractable conflicts, individuals and entire communities have fled their homes in Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Most of those seeking refuge come from Syria. Around 5.6 million have been forced across the border into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey while another 6.6 million have been displaced within Syria.3 Many reside either in makeshift refugee camps or in other people’s homes. Millions have risked their lives on treacherous journeys to Europe while hundreds of thousands have migrated to member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), seeking education or employment.

They are not alone. In the last three decades, Iraqis have also witnessed massive displacement. Close to 4.4 million fled their homes in the first and second Gulf wars in 1990 and 2003 and close to 3.4 million individuals were forced to leave following the emergence of the Islamic State in 2014.4 Today, almost 2 million remain displaced within the country, while tens of thousands more are in Syria and Jordan. In Yemen and Libya, a similar story has unfolded, although displacement has remained, for the most part, within national borders. Meanwhile, more than 2.4 million Sudanese have fled into neighboring countries, mainly Uganda.5

These mass population movements across national borders represent the fourth and most widespread wave of violent displacement that the region has faced since the end of World War I. These movements follow Armenians who escaped massacres in Turkey 1916–1918,6 1.2 million Palestinians forced out of their homes in 1948 and 1967.7

New global and regional instruments are needed to manage the fallout from this refugee crisis. The current system is unable to address the significant challenges posed by the sheer scale and expanse of conflict in the Middle East. The 1951 Refugee Convention and its related 1967 protocol, the main international instruments for safeguarding refugee rights and guaranteeing the principle of non-refoulement,8 were designed to respond to challenges faced by post–World War II refugees in Europe and the USSR. Then, around 11 million non-Germans sought refuge in areas under Allied control, while another 13 million Germans were expelled from the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Responsibility for caring for refugees was implicitly assumed to be global, but no binding mechanisms were included.

Marwan Muasher
Muasher is vice president for studies at Carnegie, where he oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East.

Consequently, the absence of a global burden and responsibility sharing left frontline countries like Lebanon and Jordan with a disproportionate share of caring for the largest number of refugees. The nonbinding character of international instruments for refugee protection, and the lack of enforcement mechanisms to guarantee refugee rights, left vulnerable refugees in increasingly precarious conditions.

Regional instruments for addressing the crisis are also lacking. Only nine out of the twenty-two member states of the Arab League have signed the Refugee Convention and its related protocol, but none have actually ratified it (see the table in the appendix).9 A positive step came in 1965 with the adoption of the Casablanca Protocol for the Treatment of Palestinians in Arab States by the Council of Foreign Ministers of Member States of the Arab League. This protocol advocates for the right to employment for Palestinian refugees in host countries, as well as the right to obtain travel documents and to travel between Arab states, in accordance with standard visa and entry requirements for other Arab nationals.10 However, most of the rights accorded by this agreement have not been upheld by the different countries, particularly the rights to employment and freedom of movement.

In this broader context, all Arab countries have adopted a nonintegrative policy approach that considers refugees as temporary, unwanted guests; it denies them refugee status and basic rights and considers them to be both a burden and potential threat to the security and integrity of the nation. Diverse policies in different countries are for the most part driven by economic, political, security, demographic, and cultural considerations. While GCC member governments are concerned mainly with maintaining their current systems of governance and wealth distribution, countries of the Levant are worried primarily about the prospective challenge posed by incoming refugees to the political balance between different sectarian and ethnic communities as well as with the economic burden of caring for large numbers of newcomers to their countries at a time of depleted resources.

While GCC countries are listed among the top aid contributors to humanitarian operations dealing with the consequences of the Syrian conflict, they have been the most resistant to granting refugee status to individuals fleeing conflicts in the region. This position is consistent with the protectionist naturalization laws of these countries. In 2015, Saudi Arabia contributed $88.8 million, Kuwait $313.6 million, and the United Arab Emirates $71.9 million to humanitarian operations related to the Syrian crisis, including care for refugees.11 And even though several GCC countries argue that they have hosted thousands of Syrian migrant workers and students since 2011, none have agreed to grant refugee status to Syrians escaping conflict.12 Saudi Arabia, for example, indicated that it had authorized entry permits for 2.5 million Syrians since 2011, but scholars have noted these numbers are unsupported by official data, estimating that the actual number is closer to 420,000.13 

In the Levant, Lebanon and Jordan, which share borders with Iraq, Palestine, and Syria, are hosting the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide.14 Both countries have a long history of taking in refugees, including successive waves of Armenians, Palestinians, and Iraqis. In both countries, refugee camps for Palestinians are still in place more than seventy years after they were established as temporary shelters for fleeing populations. Yet neither country has signed the Refugee Convention or protocol.15 While Armenians were eventually integrated into the countries they fled to, settling mainly in Lebanon and Syria, only Jordan granted Palestinians full citizenship rights. More than half of Jordanians today are of Palestinian origin.16 Yet thousands, mainly from Gaza, have not been naturalized and continue to live in deplorable conditions, such as in the Jerash camp, which hosts 30,000 refugees,17 while others have more recently had their nationality arbitrarily revoked by Jordanian authorities.18 Lebanon has not integrated Palestinian refugees, and 174,000 currently live in the country’s twelve refugee camps,19 with restricted mobility and limited access to employment, education, and health services.20 This situation is likely to worsen as international funding and aid through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is cut.21 As for Palestinian refugees in Syria, they were forced out in the past two years, as the Yarmouk camp, their primary area of settlement, was besieged by Syrian government forces.22

Both countries are currently shouldering a disproportionate share of caring for the largest number of refugees. Lebanon’s resident population expanded from 4.4 million to more than 5.9 million in the space of two years as a result of the refugee flow, placing a tremendous strain on government institutions, local communities, and national infrastructure such as water, electricity, schools, and health facilities.23 In Jordan, a similar story unfolded as the country’s population increased by nearly 87 percent from 2005 to 2015, the majority of whom are non-Jordanians, namely Iraqis and then Syrians fleeing conflicts in their countries.24 The two countries hold the highest and second-highest number of refugees per capita worldwide; Lebanon hosts 164 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants whereas Jordan hosts 71 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants.25

This rapid increase in the population base also triggered a significant decline in access to services, aggravated preexisting socioeconomic and environmental pressures (such as scarce water resources), and led to increased urbanization. For example, today nearly half of non-Jordanians reside in Amman, significantly expanding pockets of urban poverty and further worsening the state of urban infrastructure and the ability of the government to provide requisite services.26

In response to the crisis, both frontline countries have also adopted similarly restrictive policies toward Syrian refugees, namely because of the significant financial burden of caring for millions of destitute individuals as well as serious concerns with the changing demographic balance. While East Bank Jordanians fear being outnumbered, the Lebanese are worried about the political ramifications if the country’s sectarian demographic balance is disrupted.27

Both governments have imposed significant restrictions on obtaining and renewing residency permits. Yet, refugee access to basic services such as education, health, employment, and justice is often limited to those who are registered or have legal documents.28 These restrictions render refugees highly dependent on international aid.

Policy Recommendations

Make the Global Compact a Binding Instrument

To address these shortcomings, members of the United Nations General Assembly should consider making the 2018 global compact for a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) a binding instrument with credible enforcement and implementation mechanisms.29 This global compact, issued in response to the current refugee crisis, attempts to mitigate its impact particularly for frontline countries through more equitable burden and responsibility sharing.30

Given the complexity of today’s conflicts and the difficulties of arriving and implementing plausible political solutions, the CRRF presents an opportunity for countries in the region to push for long-term, multiyear support that goes beyond humanitarian relief to include economic and infrastructure investments.31 Such multiyear commitments would take place through a ministerial-level Global Refugee Forum that would be held every four years. Lebanon’s foreign ministry has already expressed its interest in this aspect of the global compact. Jordan has also demonstrated interest in developing international burden-sharing tools, such as the 2016 Jordan compact adopted in partnership with the EU that seeks to open up employment opportunities for Syrian refugees in exchange of easing exports to Europe and development projects.32 Even though the Jordan compact did not meet its target of 200,000 work permits—only 37,000 Syrians had reportedly obtained these permits in 2017,33 while only seven companies have been allowed to export so far34—it still represents how this might work. Improving on this model could be both easy and effective.

The CRRF could allow the Arab region to turn the refugee crisis into an opportunity. By seeking to provide solutions in support of host countries, enhancing the self-reliance of refugees, and promoting their safe and dignified return to their home countries while expanding access to resettlement in third countries, the CRRF’s aims are compatible with the requests of host countries.35 Burden-sharing mechanisms included in the compact could potentially leave a positive impact on states themselves by enhancing their capacity in service provision, improving infrastructure, and boosting economic growth.

Improve Subregional Cooperation

Intergovernmental responses at the subregional level are an essential tool that countries in the region should use to mitigate the crisis. To that end, the CRRF also supports the establishment of mechanisms at the regional and subregional levels for addressing the refugee challenge; one that would allow more proactive coordination between Jordan, Lebanon, and also Turkey on policy options. Such coordination could include joint needs assessments and collective lobbying for long-term international commitments to humanitarian funding and for sustainable solutions to the crisis.

Global examples suggest that regional protocols and conventions have been used successfully by African as well as Latin American countries to address similar challenges. The Kampala Convention that was adopted by the African Union in 2012 was a major milestone for the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa, defining the responsibility of states in their protection and strongly condemning arbitrary displacement.36 Similarly, the Cartagena Declaration, adopted by a number of Latin American countries, reasserted the principle of the 1951 convention but adapted it to endemic regional challenges by extending the definition of refugees to include individuals fleeing gang-related violence.37

Develop a Multistakeholder Platform

The scale of the refugee crisis and the depth of its impact in the short, medium, and long terms on peace and prosperity in the Middle East requires the involvement of all sectors of society in the development of integrated and multifaceted refugee response plans. This includes international organizations, civil society organizations, municipal councils, the media, and the private sector.

An integrated plan may also minimize the duplication of initiatives among various organizations. Such plans would consider the fallout of the crisis on different fronts, such as access to education for refugees and to employment opportunities, the capacity-building needs at the national or local level for government personnel dealing with refugees, and the negative public rhetoric around refugees that only serves to undermine social cohesion. For example, collaborative efforts between media outlets and research centers could counter misinformation campaigns over the actual number of refugees or their impact on the labor market or on service-oriented sectors.38 Additionally, cooperation between international and local nongovernmental organizations (INGOs and NGOs) can help build the capacities of municipal personnel at the forefront of the crisis and, in the process, contribute to improved service delivery efforts. Private sector companies can also play a more proactive role in identifying employment opportunities best suited for refugees, reducing their dependence on government and NGO aid.39

Promote Long-Term Engagement for Development and Labor Inclusion

The international community should commit support that goes beyond current humanitarian relief to include development aid for host countries to rehabilitate and expand infrastructure networks and boost their economies. This aid should be accompanied by significant commitments from host countries to empower refugees economically by giving them access to the labor market and improving their living conditions. In turn, this would enable refugees to contribute positively to local communities and the economy.

National Reallocation of Power and Resources

Municipalities’ approaches to the refugee crisis have been molded by local politics as well as by the policies of central governments. The nonintegrative and security-driven approach toward refugees adopted by the central governments of Jordan and Lebanon left municipalities at the forefront of dealing with the refugee influx. However, it also opened the door, particularly in Lebanon, for local authorities to take on new roles, notably in security, and to use international donor support to build their own capacities and financial standing. This created considerable variations in locally generated measures to address refugee needs.

In both countries, local responses to the refugee influx were shaped by several factors.40 The crisis aggravated long-term structural governance challenges, including a highly centralized decisionmaking process as well as limited access to public funding for municipalities.41 In Jordan, for example, even the most minor decisions and expenditures require a signature from the relevant ministries, and dismissing a municipal employee on a permanent contract requires the prime minister’s approval. This is aggravated by the fact that the central government distributes funds to municipalities on the basis of their tax revenue (in Jordan) or registered population (in Lebanon) rather than on the size of the resident population or its development needs. This ultimately means that most funding goes to richer municipalities.42 Meanwhile, the jurisdiction of municipalities, over development and security issues, are ambiguous at best, especially in Lebanon. For example, it was unclear to municipalities how far their responsibilities extended toward Syrian individuals who were violating the Directorate of General Security’s residency conditions.43

These long-standing structural problems were further intensified in Lebanon by its recent political paralysis, epitomized by an inability to elect a president for more than two years (2014 to 2016). This meant that no clear, centrally led refugee policy was put in place, especially early in the crisis.44 While many municipalities restricted the movement of refugees through evening curfews, others provided them with work opportunities. And as some municipalities expelled refugees sponsored by individuals who did not reside within their administrative boundaries, others solicited international funding by adopting measures hospitable to refugees. Those that restricted the movement of refugees relied on circulars issued by the security cell established by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities.45 So while the municipality of Kfar-Rimman in southern Lebanon applied restrictive measures, such as denying refugees access to public places and demanding the departure of Syrian refugees whose sponsor was not from the township, other municipalities such as that of Zghorta took a more cautious approach by refusing to impose curfews or to collect residency fees not mandated by law from refugees.46

In contrast, Jordan’s policies with regards to Syrian refugees were articulated in a government-led Jordan Refugee Response Plan and implemented by all relevant institutions. This meant that the response of Jordanian municipalities was somewhat more systematic.47 For instance, a specific directorate was created under the Ministry of Interior—known as the Syrian Refugees Affairs Directorate—to coordinate refugee issues in the country.48 Unlike Lebanon, the movement of Syrian refugees lacking valid identification documents is handled by the police rather than municipalities.49

Region-specific considerations as well as tribal or sectarian concerns, including the personality of the mayor, also played a role in defining local responses. For instance, the municipality of Mafraq has been more open toward refugees than other areas in Jordan, partially because of its stronger kinship ties with Syria’s Daraa. In Lebanon, Sunni-dominated municipalities are the least strict compared to Shia- and Christian-dominated municipalities when it comes to implementing curfews, in part because a majority of Syrian refugees are Sunni.50 This variation in municipal responses has meant that the impact of refugees at the municipal level has not been uniform. Refugees were more likely to settle in localities that were friendlier and more hospitable to them, especially when confronted with restrictive measures by the central government. As a result, these localities have faced more pressure on their infrastructure including waste disposal and water networks as well as social service delivery, while their financial resources remain limited compared to other less-welcoming municipalities.

The attitude of INGOs, shaped in part by central government frameworks for cooperation, also impacted municipal governance. While the crisis increased municipal access to financial resources and capacity-building opportunities from international nongovernmental organizations, the centralization of decisionmaking within specific ministries undermined their role in identifying policies based on local needs.51

Many municipalities are underresourced, have little control over their finances, and are unable to attract the skilled human capital needed to address the burgeoning pressure on their services. Meanwhile, the lead ministries chosen by the Lebanese and Jordanian governments as principal interlocutors with international organizations are often not the ones responsible for local governments. For instance, the lead ministries responding to the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon and Jordan were the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation,52 respectively, rather than the ministries that govern municipal affairs (the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, respectively).53 Moreover, even though both the Jordanian and Lebanese crisis response plans recognize the importance of supporting municipalities in capacity-building and service provision, both plans lack a well-defined coordination mechanism between international nongovernmental organizations and municipalities not only for project implementation but also for response planning.54

As a result, municipalities have faced several issues in dealing with INGOs. In Lebanon, mayors felt that the short-term emergency approach of INGOs did not address the long-term needs of their localities.55 They believed that an INGO program of action was more often than not shaped by donor priorities rather than local needs and believed them to be applying a one-model-fits-all approach to the refugee crisis, irrespective of local considerations. Some municipalities have grown increasingly skeptical of INGOs and believe them to be only interested in cooperating with local authorities for data collection rather than inclusive decisionmaking and planning.56

Policy Recommendations

Integrate Action Plans

At the national level, the government should promote an integrated approach to addressing the refugee crisis through a holistic action plan that outlines key challenges related to the crisis. Such a plan should involve all stakeholders engaged with addressing the ramifications of the refugee influx, including host communities and the refugees themselves. Through close collaboration with international organizations, the private sector, the press, academia, and civil society, such a plan can safeguard refugee rights, improve refugees’ well-being and their positive impact on the economy, and promote social cohesion by countering negative, fake news with regard to their impact on host communities.

Involve Local Governments in Refugee Policymaking

Ministries responsible for local governance should strive to build a platform for municipalities most affected by the refugee crisis; one that would allow such municipalities to discuss the challenges they face, learn from each other, pool financial and human resources, and present themselves as a unified front in national discussions or policymaking sessions related to refugee presence. Such a platform would also create a one-stop shop for other line ministries and for international organizations wishing to consult with local governments in the design of refugee-related policies. Such a platform could create an opportunity for municipalities to discuss their public investment priorities in ways that serve refugees and meet municipalities’ development needs. It would also allow international organizations to coordinate with municipalities throughout the different stages of the refugee response, that is, from planning through monitoring and evaluation to implementation. In time, this may rebuild trust between INGOs and municipalities and could facilitate municipalities’ collaboration with INGOs.

Provide Financial Incentives

Incentives should be provided to municipalities hosting larger numbers of refugees. In Lebanon, an example of such an incentive would be to allow municipalities that host refugees to keep a higher percentage of their collected taxes. Another option would be for central governments to transfer funds to municipalities based on their needs rather than their tax base.57

Enable Regional Planning

In addition, municipalities should be provided with more authority not only for service provision but also for strategic planning. Improving their planning capabilities would allow burden sharing between municipalities that could then pool resources to better cope with the refugee crisis and ensure synergies among their respective policies. For that to happen, central governments should set up the institutional framework for regional planning and regional coordination between municipalities. With better planning and implementation capabilities, INGOs are more likely to work with local governments as actual partners.

Enhance the Efficiency of Local Governance

Moreover, for local governance to be efficient, national governments and parliaments should simplify administrative procedures and introduce clear auditing measures to avoid corruption and increase transparency at the local level, especially during a crisis when there is a sudden increased demand on services.58

Safeguarding Refugee Rights: Exploring Durable Solutions

The paucity of durable solutions to the refugee crisis requires a brave and innovative approach. Currently available durable solutions, which usually involve three main options—repatriation, resettlement, or local integration—do not present a sustainable solution to the displacement of millions of people from their homes. This was already the case for Palestinian refugees.

The option of mass voluntary repatriation to Syria is unlikely to happen in the near future, given the persistence of multiple security and political challenges. These include a conscription law  that forces young adults until the age of forty-two to enroll in the army,59 vetting procedures imposed by the regime,60 as well as the extensive destruction of Syrian cities.61 For refugees in Lebanon, where almost 70 percent are originally from the Homs, Idlib, Rif Dimashq, and Aleppo Governorates, this poses significant challenges because these governorates were among the most heavily destroyed during the war.62 In addition, the recently issued Law Number 10, which allows for the designation of property as a redevelopment zone, presents a real threat to refugees’ private property.63 And even though Assad has recently issued a presidential amnesty for military deserters and draft dodgers on the condition that they turn themselves over to the regime within four to six months and serve two years in the military, many Syrian refugees are wary that this amnesty, like the reconciliation deals, would be used to imprison them or even send them to their deaths. Other hurdles face refugees seeking to return to Iraq or Sudan, where the sectarian or ethnic aspects of the conflict and their displacement as well as weakened central authority pose specifically trying challenges to their return.

Since 2015, resettlement in European or other Western countries is also becoming increasingly difficult, if not outright impossible. Populist politicians and security incidents have contributed to the tightening of EU member states’ migration policy.64 European countries are eager to keep Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, as demonstrated by the European Union–Turkey deal whereby Turkey agreed to take back asylum seekers deported from Greece in exchange for $6 billion in aid.65 Similarly, the contribution of Gulf countries to the refugee crisis remains limited to humanitarian aid, and despite some flexibility toward Syrian migrants, GCC states have given no real signs they would be willing to change their asylum policies.

The option of integration in host countries is also a nonstarter for refugees. In Lebanon, public officials have loudly rejected the mere mention of naturalizing refugees,66 as they believe it would undermine the fragile sectarian demographic balance of the country. Lebanon’s foreign minister Gebran Bassil recently admonished the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for its call that all parties respect the voluntariness of return, and accused it of being “an organization which acts against (Lebanon’s) policy of preventing naturalization and returning the displaced to their homeland.”67 In a recent trip to Russia to discuss the return of refugees, Bassil also declared that “Lebanon refuses to tie the return of the refugees to the political solution [in Syria].”68 Even Turkey, which welcomed the largest number of Syrian refugees and naturalized about 12,000 of them, has recently called for the rapid return of refugees due to economic pressure and cultural differences.69

Finally, strict border policies imposed by neighboring host countries restrict the ability of refugees to move back and forth to Syria and impede the smooth, safe, and progressive return of refugees. As examples from other contexts indicate, repatriation often takes place progressively and is not immediately final. First, members of a household sometimes take multiple trips to the country of origin to ensure it is safe, and to secure the necessary arrangements for the family to return.70 Second, families often get split between those who stay in a host country for any number of reasons including fear for safety, continued education, or employment and those who return home to try it out.71 Movement back and forth allows families to ensure diverse income streams as some members of the family might try to work back home while others stay in exile to complete their education or a medical treatment. Currently, the UNHCR removes protection status from refugees the moment they cross the border to return to their countries of origin.72

As options for refugees become increasingly limited, and military actions take precedence over political solutions, international stakeholders involved in the Syrian conflict must seek a lasting political solution that would include the safe return of refugees to their homes with the requisite political and security guarantees. A strictly humanitarian approach to the refugee crisis that ignores its political roots cannot address the structural challenges that prevent mass voluntary return. As refugees feel increasingly trapped between host countries that want them out and a dangerous return home,73 significant efforts must be made by the international community to lessen the deplorable conditions faced by refugees on either side of the border. Such a plan should seek to alleviate the burden on host countries and improve refugees’ as well as their host communities’ living conditions while guaranteeing refugees’ rights to return voluntarily. Long-term aid for frontline countries should be increased and extended to economic and infrastructural aid. These measures aim to improve refugees’ living conditions, as well as their positive economic contribution to host countries. In parallel, concrete steps should be taken on the political front to ensure the safety and security of returnees.

Policy Recommendations

Safeguard the Right to Return

Recent policies and measures by the Syrian regime regarding property rights and mobility within Syria are imposing a de facto reality that could prevent millions from returning home. While non-refoulement and the voluntariness of return should remain key instruments of the international legal framework for refugees, an equal emphasis should be made on the right to return. International stakeholders should increase their pressure on the Syrian government to revoke measures that prevent refugee return, particularly potential donors to Syria’s reconstruction such as the EU. These measures include, as a priority, revoking or amending military conscription law , vetting procedures, and property laws to allow for the safe and sustainable return of refugees.

Advocate for the Legal Empowerment of Refugees

As restrictive legal measures against refugees are being taken on both sides of the border, access to legal knowledge becomes a necessity for refugees. In that regard, international organizations can help establish a cadre of Syrian lawyers or paralegals who would become familiar with Syria’s legal frameworks as well as the rights guaranteed through international conventions.74 In view of new urban development laws, these professionals could inform refugees about their rights particularly over housing, land, and property; these rights are likely to be at the center of key disputes in a postconflict Syria. This would also enable refugees to make an informed decision regarding return to Syria, as legislation regarding vetting and property rights remain complex and obscure.

Increase Cross-Border Mobility of Refugees

As the situation in Syria is likely to remain uncertain and unstable even after the end of hostilities, cross-border mobility will allow refugees to make an informed and aware decision about permanently returning to their areas of origin. Refugees should be allowed to move across the border within a specific time frame while preserving their refugee status. During that time frame, dependence on aid would decrease gradually as refugees restore their lives back to certain levels of normalcy. Mobility across borders also allows refugees to diversify their resources. This is especially important during prolonged conflict situations, when aid tends to drop with time and other, more recent conflicts take precedence.75

Concluding Remarks

The conflicts generating mass population movements from and within the Middle East have become global in nature, and their destabilizing effect can be felt far beyond its borders. Addressing their ramifications requires bold leadership and a sense of shared responsibility at the global, regional, and national levels. Without it, there can be no sustainable peace for the people of this region.

Correction: The text originally said there are 60 million refugees. There are 60 million displaced people, both refugees and people displaced within their home countries.

Appendix

State Area States Parties76 Date of Signing the 1951 Convention Date of Signing the 1967 Protocol
Mauritania North Africa Yes May 5, 1987 (a) May 5, 1987 (a)
Morocco North Africa Yes November 7, 1956 (d) April 20, 1971 (a)
Algeria North Africa Yes February 21, 1963 (d) November 8, 1967 (a)
Tunisia North Africa Yes October 24, 1957 (d) October 16, 1968 (a)
Egypt North Africa Yes May 22, 1981 (a) May 22, 1981 (a)
Sudan Africa Yes February 22, 1974 (a) May 23, 1974 (a)
Djibouti Africa Yes August 9, 1977 (d) August 9, 1977 (d)
Somalia Africa Yes October 10, 1978 (a) October 10, 1978 (a)
Yemen Gulf Yes January 18, 1980 (a) January 18, 1980 (a)
Iraq Levant No    
Lebanon Levant No    
Jordan Levant No    
Syria Levant No    
Saudi Arabia Gulf (GCC) No    
United Arab Emirates Gulf (GCC) No    
Oman Gulf (GCC) No    
Qatar Gulf (Former GCC) No    
Kuwait Gulf (GCC) No    
Bahrain Gulf (GCC) No    
Libya North Africa No    
Comoros Africa No    
Note: Ratification (r), Accession (a), Succession (d).

Commentary

Potential Solutions in Historical AgreementsDawn Chatty

Does the recent refugee crisis in the Arab world necessitate a new international and regional framework? Can the 1965 Casablanca Protocol be brought to life and applied to refugees other than Palestinians?

The new millennium has seen several million Arabs—mostly Iraqis and Syrians—displaced from their homes, seeking asylum near and far. In the first few years of this crisis, most of the displaced were provided with sanctuary in neighboring states as fellow Arabs, guest workers, or temporary guests. By 2015, the armed conflict in Syria between state and nonstate actors (like the so-called Islamic State, among other groups) and proxy combatants (such as Hezbollah, Iranian militias, and Russian airpower) saw displaced Syrians and others begin to walk north. They went to the Balkans and further on into Europe seeking safety, job opportunities, and, in some cases, reunification with other family members, particularly in Germany and Sweden.

 
Dawn Chatty
Dawn Chatty is an author and social anthropologist whose research focuses on Middle East ethnography, refugee studies, and pastoral nomads.

The international framework for providing refuge to those fleeing persecution was created after World War II. It was set out in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and originally focused on Europeans displaced by that war. In 1967, the temporal and territorial restraints were lifted and providing refuge was globalized. As long as seeking asylum was an individual act, the system worked. However, in cases of mass influx, the system stalled. For example, the crisis of the Vietnamese boat people, which began in 1975 at the close of the Vietnam War, took fifteen years to resolve. Only in 1989 was a Comprehensive Plan of Action implemented, which saw over 1 million Vietnamese refugees distributed for resettlement throughout the Global North.

The current crisis in the Arab world needs a new Comprehensive Plan of Action to resettle the refugees who see no hope of returning and wish to be resettled. In the case of the Vietnamese, one man, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, at the United Nations Refugee Agency worked behind the scenes for over a decade to make this a reality. Is there such person at work behind the scenes hoping to implement a similar Comprehensive Plan of Action for displaced Syrians in the 2020s?

While waiting for some new international framework to emerge, there are regional examples of efforts that were both timely and successful. In the wake of the Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948, which saw nearly 1 million Palestinians displaced, dispossessed, and made stateless, neighboring states provided them with asylum and varying degrees of rights. Syria and Egypt, for example, passed domestic legislation early in the 1950s providing Palestinians rights similar to their own nationals.

Perhaps it is time to dust off another asylum mechanism that once applied to all Palestinians, the Casablanca Protocol. In September 1965, the League of Arab States passed the Protocol for the Treatment of Palestinians in Arab States. This protocol was accepted without reservation by Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen. It was later approved by most Arab states except for Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. The Casablanca Protocol called on its member states to take the necessary measures to provide Palestinians in their country with what might be regarded as temporary protection. This included the right of employment on a par with its citizens; the right to leave and return to the state they are currently in; the right to travel in the region for permitted periods and purposes; the right to valid travel documents; and the right to receive the same treatment as all other League of Arab State citizens with regards to visas and residency applications.

Reviving the Casablanca Protocol would mean providing all displaced peoples within the Arab region the right to seek employment and the right to travel within it. It is time to do this and extend the protocol to all refugees in the Arab region.

Commentary

The Repatriation of Syrian RefugeesIbrahim Awad

Support from Russia and Iran in the last three years has allowed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to regain control over all Syrian territory, with the exception of Idlib and the surrounding areas in the northwest of the country. The priority seems now to be the repatriation of Syrian refugees from the countries where they sought protection.1 Russia seems particularly keen on putting repatriation into practice. In July 2018, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that, following the Russian-U.S. summit in Helsinki in June, the ministry had sent a proposal to the U.S. government about the joint organization by the two countries of the return operation.2 The proposal suggests that the two countries set up a joint committee about financing refugee return. According to the spokesman, it also provides for establishing two monitoring committees in Jordan and Lebanon for the return of Syrian refugees from those countries. In addition to Russia and the United States, the governments of Jordan and Lebanon would be members of the two respective committees.

Other Russian initiatives go further. A Russia-Turkey-Iran summit with return at the top of its concerns was held on September 7 in Tehran. Another summit bringing together Russia, Turkey, Germany, and France in Istanbul was scheduled but the four countries finally met at the level of bureaucrats. Germany and France are the leading member states of the European Union (EU), which is expected to significantly contribute to funding the reconstruction of Syria.

 
Ibrahim Awad
Ibrahim Awad is a professor of practice of global affairs and the director of the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies in the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo.

Three factors may explain the priority given to return, which is assumed to be voluntary, as international refugee law provides. First, return would mean that regional and international systems recognize that the regime exercises effective control over the territory, which should reinforce its legitimacy. Second is the insistence on return by some countries of refuge, exemplified by Lebanon, whose authorities do not want to subject return to prior political settlement. The third factor is that, if refugees return, external parties will likely do their utmost to prevent a recurrence of violence that would trigger new refugee flows. This is in the interests of both the regime in Syria and bordering countries.

Turkey, in addition to Lebanon, is the only country actively calling for repatriation. Jordan recently announced that it would neither encourage nor discourage refugees to return. In Egypt, no calls for repatriation have been heard, which is probably due to both the small number of Syrian refugees it hosts relative to its large population and the absorption of these refugees in its relatively large economy. And it is noteworthy that in EU member states, where alarm and a sense of crisis and panic has been nurtured by populists and the Far Right since the arrival of refugees in 2015 and 2016, return does not presently figure with any sense of urgency in the public debate. This should mean that refugees have been economically and socially absorbed in host countries, which is precisely what most experts in refugee movements, economies, and labor markets said back then.

The relationship between repatriation and the political settlement of the Syrian conflict is the more substantive issue. A settlement is difficult because there is a clear victor on the ground—the regime—that does not feel compelled to bargain with the vanquished. But in reality the bargain will rather be, directly or indirectly, with parties to the regional system and especially with the great powers, which are attached to the preservation of this system lest they incur the consequences of its collapse. The avenue to bargaining will be reconstruction, which is necessary for both repatriation to be significant and for the regime since, without it, it would only rule over rubble. Thus, there is a larger relationship between repatriation, political settlement, and reconstruction.

The hope is that with the participation by representatives of the Syrian people, this bargaining will realize several objectives. These include respect for the Syrian people and for their right to govern themselves, and ensuring the safety and security of returning refugees. This is the core of the political question. It is not easy but it cannot be ignored. It is in the interest of all parties to reach a sustainable settlement.

Modes of financing reconstruction, its models, plans, stages, tying it to the progressive return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the implementation of this return are all questions where the technical and political are mixed. They are complex but not impossible to manage.

A political settlement is necessary for Syria’s reconstruction and for the repatriation of Syrian refugees.

Notes

1 In this commentary, the terms “repatriation” and “return” are used interchangeably.

2 Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart, “Exclusive: Despite Tensions, Russia Seeks U.S. Help to Rebuild Syria,” Reuters, August 3, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-syria-exclusive/exclusive-despite-tensions-russia-seeks-u-s-help-to-rebuild-syria-idUSKBN1KO2JP.

Commentary

Lessons From Lebanese Municipal Responses to the Syrian Refugee CrisisJoanna Nassar

With the eruption of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, Lebanon has witnessed an influx of refugees through its northern and eastern borders, spreading across the country. A majority of the refugees, who number 976,002 per the United Nations as of July 2018, have either stayed in informal tented settlements or rented shelters in villages that were already considered to be among the most vulnerable in the country with existing weak infrastructure and limited access to basic services.1

Municipalities in Lebanon, as officially elected bodies, were put at the forefront of the crisis to deal with the arrival of Syrians. These villages were faced with the lack of a solid national response strategy and received limited instructions or guidance from their central government on how to handle this large influx (before the Ministry of Social Affairs took a more proactive role in coordinating with the UN and international organizations). Therefore, different municipalities had to come up with different models and even procedures to manage the crisis.

 
Joanna Nassar
Joanna Nassar is the project manager of the United Nations Development Program’s Peacebuilding in Lebanon project.

With limited capacities and financial resources, municipalities stepped up to the challenge while serving a higher number of inhabitants, which had doubled in many villages; managed the delivery of basic services (including water, sewage, electricity, garbage collection, and so on); mediated and made unilateral decisions to resolve economic constraints (like closing illegal Syrian shops); responded to new social and cultural problems that arose; and assisted Syrian refugees with humanitarian needs (including registration, housing, and other services). Some municipalities had to take unilateral arbitrary steps, like imposing curfews (in almost all governorates),2 imposing fees on Syrian families,3 and other security-related measures. In some cases, the character of the mayor did play an important part in the management of the crisis: a charismatic mayor who had personal connections and power was able to better control the situation.

Based on the above, some key recommendations are worth developing:

  • organizations responding to the Syrian crisis need to improve coordination with municipalities;
  • the central government needs to give municipalities clear guidance married with strong technical and financial support to manage different aspects of the crisis (social, economic, political, aid management, and security) for a comprehensive and targeted response;
  • municipalities should be technically empowered (including building up the skills of municipal police and supporting social stability); and
  • municipalities should be encouraged with the support of Ministry of Social Affairs’ Social Development Centers to play a leading role in transforming local conflicts between different groups in their communities.

Notes

1 “Syria Regional Refugee Response,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), last updated July 31, 2018, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/syria/location/71.

2 “Defining Community Vulnerabilities in Lebanon,” REACH Initiative, 2015, p. 9 and 88, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/documents/download/44875.

3 Bill Frelick, ”‘Our Homes Are Not for Strangers’: Mass Evictions of Syrian Refugees by Lebanese Municipalities,” Human Rights Watch, April 20, 2018, https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/04/20/our-homes-are-not-strangers/mass-evictions-syrian-refugees-lebanese-municipalities; and Elham Barjas, “Restricting Refugees: Measuring Municipal Power in Lebanon,” Legal Agenda, September 30, 2016, http://legal-agenda.com/en/article.php?id=3174.

Notes

1 “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2017,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 2018, http://www.unhcr.org/5b27be547.pdf.

2 “More Than 60 Smuggled Syrian Refugees Arrested,” Daily Star, July 30, 2018, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2018/Jul-30/458375-more-than-60-smuggled-syrian-refugees-arrested.ashx.

3 “Syria Emergency,” UNHCR, last modified April 19, 2018, http://www.unhcr.org/syria-emergency.html.

4 “Iraq Mission,” International Organization for Migration (IOM), August 2018, http://iraqdtm.iom.int/IDPsML.aspx.

5 “Situation South Sudan,” UNHCR, last modified September 30, 2018, https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/southsudan.

6 Thomas H. Greenshields, “The Settlement of Armenian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon, 1915-39,” in Change and Development in the Middle East, eds. John I. Clarke and Howard Bowen-Jones (New York: Routledge Revivals, 2013), 233.

7 “Palestinian Refugees in Gaza and the West Bank - Causes and Consequences,” Forced Migration, http://www.forcedmigration.org/research-resources/expert-guides/palestinian-refugees-in-the-west-bank-and-the-gaza/causes-and-consequences.

8 This refers to a principle that would prevent refugees from being returned while their freedoms are still threatened and their lives still in danger.

9 “States Parties to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol,” UNHCR, April 2015, http://www.unhcr.org/protection/basic/3b73b0d63/states-parties-1951-convention-its-1967-protocol.html.

10 “Protocol for the Treatment of Palestinians in Arab States (‘Casablanca Protocol’),” League of Arab States, published September 11, 1965, http://www.refworld.org/docid/460a2b252.html.

11 “Syria Crisis Fair Share Analysis 2016,” Oxfam, February 1, 2016, https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/bn-syria-fair-shares-analysis-010216-en.pdf.

12 “Syria’s Refugee Crisis in Numbers,” Amnesty International, September 4, 2015, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/09/syrias-refugee-crisis-in-numbers/.

13 Francoise de Bel-Air, “A Note on Syrian Refugees in the Gulf: Attempting to Assess Data and Policies,” Gulf Labor Markets and Migration, 2015, http://gulfmigration.eu/media/pubs/exno/GLMM_EN_2015_11.pdf.

14 “The World’s Refugees in Numbers,” Amnesty International, accessed October 17, 2018, https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/refugees-asylum-seekers-and-migrants/global-refugee-crisis-statistics-and-facts/.

15 “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,” UNHCR, 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/protection/basic/3b66c2aa10/convention-protocol-relating-status-refugees.html.

16 Christoph Wilcke, “Stateless Again: Palestinian-Origin Jordanians Deprived of their Nationality,” Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2010,  https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/02/01/stateless-again/palestinian-origin-jordanians-deprived-their-nationality.

17 “Jerash Camp,” UNRWA, https://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/jordan/jerash-camp.

18 Wilcke, “Stateless Again”; and Paddy Dowling, “Jordan’s Palestinian Refugee Camps,” Independent, May 11, 2018, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/jordan-palestine-refugee-camps-photography-a8341826.html.

19 “Census Finds 174,422 Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon,” Daily Star, December 21, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/Dec-21/431109-census-finds-174422-palestinian-refugees-in-lebanon.ashx.

20 Lorraine Charles, “Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: The Neglected Crisis,” Forced Migration Forum, February 14, 2018, https://forcedmigrationforum.com/2018/02/14/palestinian-refugees-in-lebanon/.

21 “In Lebanese Camp for Palestinian Refugees, Fears After Aid Cut,” Reuters, January 30, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-palestinians-trump-aid/in-lebanese-camp-for-palestinian-refugees-fears-after-aid-cut-idUSKBN1FJ1UI; and Peter Beaumont and Oliver Holmes, “US Confirms End to Funding for UN Palestinian Refugees,” Guardian, August 31, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/31/trump-to-cut-all-us-funding-for-uns-main-palestinian-refugee-programme.

22 “Syria War: Government Forces Continue Bombardment of Yarmouk Camp,” Al Jazeera, April 29, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/syria-war-government-forces-continue-yarmouk-bombardment-180429073153001.html.

23 “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan 2017-2020 (2018 update),” ReliefWeb, January 28 , 2018, https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/lebanon-crisis-response-plan-2017-2020-2018-update; and “Number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon,” Union of Relief and Development Associations (URDA), January 1, 2017, http://urda.org.lb/en/details.aspx?ID=1426.

24 “General Population & Housing Census 2015,” Department of Statistics in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, http://www.dos.gov.jo/dos_home_e/main/population/census2015/Main_Result.pdf.

25 “The World’s Refugees in Numbers,” Amnesty International.

26 “General Population & Housing Census 2015,” Department of Statistics in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

27 Maha Yahya, “Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 2015,  https://carnegieendowment.org/files/CMEC57_Yahya_final.pdf.

28 For further details on the link between residency and access to services, see Maha Yahya, Jean Kassir, and Khalil el-Hariri, “Unheard Voices: What Syrian Refugees Need to Return Home,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, April 16, 2018, https://carnegie-mec.org/2018/04/16/unheard-voices-what-syrian-refugees-need-to-return-home-pub-76050.

29 “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,” United Nations General Assembly, October 3, 2016, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/71/1.

30 “Towards a Global Compact on Refugees,” UNHCR, accessed October 17, 2018, http://www.unhcr.org/towards-a-global-compact-on-refugees.html.

31 Jim Yong Kim, “The World’s Refugee Crisis Needs Both a Humanitarian and Longer-Term Response,” Voices (blog), World Bank, June 30, 2016, https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/World-Refugee-Crisis-Needs-Both-Humanitarian-Longer-Term-Response; and “Aid Agencies’ Reaction to Brussels II Conference Outcomes,” ReliefWeb, April 25, 2018, https://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/aid-agencies-reaction-brussels-ii-conference-outcomes.

32 “EU-Jordan Partnership: The Compact,” European Commission, updated March 2017, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/jordan-compact.pdf.

33 Bassem Nemeh, “Jordan’s Burden,” Diwan (blog), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 21, 2017, http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/68330.

34 Ibid.

35 “The Global Compact on Refugees Final Draft,” UNHCR, June 26, 2018 http://www.unhcr.org/5b3295167.pdf.

36 Mike Asplet and Megan Bradley, “Strengthened Protection for Internally Displaced Persons in Africa: The Kampala Convention Comes Into Force,” Brookings Institution, July 28, 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/strengthened-protection-for-internally-displaced-persons-in-africa-the-kampala-convention-comes-into-force/.

37 Summary Conclusions on the Interpretation of the Extended Refugee Definition in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, UNHCR, October 2013, http://www.unhcr.org/protection/expert/53bd4d0c9/summary-conclusions-interpretation-extended-refugee-definition-1984-cartagena.html

38 Victoria Yan, “Uptick in Syrian Refugee Crisis Fake News,” Daily Star, May 12, 2017, http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2017/May-12/405477-uptick-in-syrian-refugee-crisis-fake-news.ashx.

39 Rabie Barakat, “Civil Society Organizations and Building Bridges,” Peace Building In Lebanon 10, (December 2015): 5, http://www.lb.undp.org/content/dam/lebanon/docs/CrisisPreventionRecovery/SupplementArticles/10Supp/En-RabieBarakat.pdf

40 Alexander Betts, Ali Ali, and Fulya Memişoğlu, “Local Politics and the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Exploring Responses in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan,” Refugee Studies Center, 2017, https://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/files/files-1/local-politics-and-syrian-refugee-crisis_report-web.pdf; Marwa Boustani, Estella Carpi, Hayat Gebara, and Yara Mourad, “Responding to the Syrian Crisis in Lebanon: Collaboration Between Aid Agencies and Local Governance Structures,” International Institute for Environment and Development, September 2016, http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/10799IIED.pdf.

In response to the Iraqi refugee crisis that followed the first and second gulf wars in 1990 and 2003 respectively, religious organizations played a more significant role in providing refugee aid in Lebanon as compared to Jordan and Syria where political parties' and civil society's work is restrained and under strict control. See Dawn Chatty and Nisrine Mansour, “Unlocking Protracted Displacement: An Iraqi Case Study,” Refugee Survey Quarterly 30, no. 4, (December 2011): 50–83, https://academic.oup.com/rsq/article/30/4/50/1527758.

41 “The Role of Local Government in Addressing the Impact of Syrian Refugees: Jordan Case Study,” Chatham House, June 2015, https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/events/02-06-15-jordan-workshop-summary-final2.pdf; “Supporting Municipalities in Responding to the Refugees Crisis,” Lebanese Center for Poilcy Studies (LCPS), May 14, 2016, https://www.lcps-lebanon.org/agendaArticle.php?id=65.

42 “The Role of Local Government in Addressing the Impact of Syrian Refugees,” Chatham House; and Sami Atallah, “The Independent Municipal Fund: Reforming the Distributional Criteria,” LCPS, November 2011, https://www.lcps-lebanon.org/publications/1331312295-imf-policybrief-eng.pdf.

43 Elham Barjas, “Restricting Refugees: Measuring Municipal Power in Lebanon,” Legal Agenda, September 30, 2016, http://legal-agenda.com/en/article.php?id=3174.

44 “Former Heads of the Republic,” Presidency of the Lebanese Republic, accessed October 17, 2018, http://www.presidency.gov.lb/Arabic/PresidentoftheRepublic/FormerPresidents/Pages/default.aspx.

45  Circulars are announcements/advertisements issued by public administrations. See Elham Barjas, “Municipal Regulation of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: The Case of Kfar-Rimman,” Legal Agenda, November 21, 2016, http://legal-agenda.com/en/article.php?id=3204.

46 Ibid; and Barjas, “Restricting Refugees.”

47 “The Role of Local Government in Addressing the Impact of Syrian Refugees,” Chatham House.

48 “Jordan Refugee Response: Inter-Agency Coordination Briefing Kit – May 2016,” ReliefWeb, June 6, 2016, https://reliefweb.int/report/jordan/jordan-refugee-response-inter-agency-coordination-briefing-kit-may-2016.

49 “Securing Status: Syrian Refugees and the Documentation of Legal Status, Identity, and Family Relationships in Jordan,” Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), November 2016, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/securing-status%5B1%5D.pdf.

50 Siba El-Samra, “Municipal Responses to Syrian Refugee Inflow to Lebanon: Studying the Impact of Religiopolitical Affiliations on Policy,” (master’s thesis, Cornell University, May 2015), https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/43063/Siba%20El-Samra_FINAL.pdf?sequence=2.

51 “Lebanon Municipal Services Emergency Project,” World Bank, http://projects.worldbank.org/P149724/?lang=en&tab=overview; and World Bank, “Jordan – Municipal Services and Social Resilience,” World Bank, http://projects.worldbank.org/P147689?lang=en

52 “Countries Hosting Syrian Refugees: Solidarity and Burden-Sharing,” UNHCR, September 2013, 5, http://www.unhcr.org/525fe3e59.pdf; and Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, “The Jordan Response Plan for the Syria Crisis 2017–2019,” Government of Jordan, February 23, 2017, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/522c2552e4b0d3c39ccd1e00/t/58aec230a5790a797f1d0c1f/1487848020031/JRP+2017-2019+-+Final+Draft+-+230217.pdf.

53 Similarly in Syria, the official partners of UNHCR in responding to the Iraqi refugee crisis were the Ministries of Education and Health rather than the Ministry of Local Administration and Environment. See “UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009,” UNHCR, p. 212, http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/474ac8d811.pdf.

54 “Lebanon Crisis Response Plan: 2017-2020 (2018 Update),” UNHCR and Government of Lebanon, January 25, 2018, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/LCRP2018_EN_Full_180122.pdf.

55 Boustani, et al., “Responding to the Syrian crisis in Lebanon.”

56 Ibid.

57 “The Role of Local Government in Addressing the Impact of Syrian Refugees,” Chatham House; and Atallah, “The Independent Municipal Fund.”

58 Maria Gonzales de Asis, “Reducing Corruption at the Local Level,” World Bank, October 2000, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/724801468327614172/pdf/347930municipal1eng.pdf.

59 “The Parliament Approves a Draft Law Concerning Those Who Have Passed the Mandatory Age of Compulsory Service and Regarding the Public Registration of Workers in the state With the Ministry of Administrative Development,” Syrian Arab News Agency, November 8, 2017, https://www.sana.sy/?p=656572.

60 Dalia Nehme, “Statement: The District of Homs Will Stay Destroyed Years After Assad’s Victory,” Reuters, August 18, 2017, https://ara.reuters.com/article/ME_TOPNEWS_MORE/idARAKCN1AY22A; and Associated Press, “Hundreds of Syrian Refugees Start Journey Back Home From Lebanon,” Haaretz, July 28, 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/syria/a-thousand-syrian-refugees-return-home-from-lebanon-1.6317820.

61 “The Toll of War: The Economic and Social Consequences of the Conflict in Syria,” World Bank, July 10, 2017, http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/syria/publication/the-toll-of-war-the-economic-and-social-consequences-of-the-conflict-in-syria.

62 Yahya, Kassir, and el-Hariri, “Unheard Voices.”

63 Maha Yahya, “The Politics of Dispossession,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 9, 2018, http://carnegie-mec.org/diwan/76290.

64 Joanna Kakissis, “’Europe Does Not See Us As Human’: Stranded Refugees Struggle In Greece,” National Public Radio, March 9, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/03/09/589973165/europe-does-not-see-us-as-human-stranded-refugees-struggle-in-greece.

65 Ibid.

66 “EU, U.N. Deny Refugee ‘Naturalization’ Claims After Lebanon Uproar,” Naharnet, April 27, 2018, http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/245481.

67 “Lebanon Foreign Minister Says Will Take ‘Measures Against’ U.N. Refugee Agency,” Reuters, June 7, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-syria-refugees-unhcr/lebanon-foreign-minister-says-will-take-measures-against-un-refugee-agency-idUSKCN1J32R8.

68 James Haines-Young, “Russia to Help Lebanon Return Refugees, Says Lavrov,” National, August 20, 2018,

https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/russia-to-help-lebanon-return-refugees-says-lavrov-1.761848.

69 “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2017,” UNHCR, 2018, http://www.unhcr.org/5b27be547.pdf; and Erin Cunningham and Zakaria Zakaria, “Turkey, Once a Haven for Syrian Refugees, Grows Weary of Their Presence,” Washington Post, April 10, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/turkey-to-syrian-refugees-you-dont-have-to-go-home-but-dont-stay-here/2018/04/04/d1b17d8c-222a-11e8-946c-9420060cb7bd_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0b4c4587acff.

70 Ibid.

71 Geraldine Chatelard, “Cross-Border Mobility of Iraqi Refugees,” Forced Migration Review, no. 34 (February 2010): 60–62, http://www.fmreview.org/sites/fmr/files/FMRdownloads/en/urban-displacement/FMR34.pdf.

72 Bahira al-Zarier, Avery Edelman, and Waleed Khaled a-Noufal, “‘Thousands’ of Syrian Refugees Return From Jordan to Southern Syria as Ceasefire Enters Third Month,” Syria Direct, September 14, 2017, https://syriadirect.org/news/%E2%80%98thousands%E2%80%99-of-syrian-refugees-return-from-jordan-to-southern-syria-as-ceasefire-enters-third-month.

73 Yahya, Kassir, and el-Hariri, “Unheard Voices.”

74 Ibid.

75 Tania Kaiser, “Dispersal, Division and Diversification: Durable Solutions and Sudanese Refugees in Uganda,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 4, no. 1 (2010): 44–60, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17531050903550116.

76 “States Parties to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol,” UNHCR.