Building peace into refugee responses: Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Middle East

This is an output from a project that was part of the fifth Applied Research Fund (ARF) on mixed migration flows. The ARF is executed by NWO-WOTRO in close collaboration with the Platform. The call aims to strengthen the evidence-base for security and rule of law policies and programming, addressing the root causes, and the dynamics and consequences of mixed migration flows within and from fragile and conflict-affected settings.

As the crisis in Syria enters its eighth year, Syrian refugees in Lebanon find themselves more vulnerable, with their livelihood opportunities diminishing and public goodwill in increasingly short supply, even in areas that were initially welcoming. Results from a 2017 survey commissioned by the UNDP showed that nearly half of Syrians consider inter-community relations as positive, whereas only 28 per cent of Lebanese do – with only two per cent of Lebanese respondents saying there is ‘no tension’ between refugee and host communities in their area. 

With these challenges in mind, Saferworld and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) conducted research to better understand how tensions between Syrian refugees and host communities are affected by various developments and initiatives in two localities in North Lebanon and Bekaa Valley, respectively Wadi Khaled and Bar Elias. While the research sheds light on a number of tensions between Syrian refugees and Lebanese host communities, it also highlights a general sense of Lebanese solidarity towards Syrian refugees. This is reflected in feelings of empathy towards Syrian suffering caused by the war and instances of generosity shown towards Syrian refugees by Lebanese neighbours. At the same time, frustration is palpable, due to the protracted nature of the Syrian crisis and the challenges that have accrued with the passing of time.

This report seeks to highlight ways to sustain peace in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon. Key elements for this include enhancing the conflict sensitivity of interventions and refraining from framing the Syrian refugee crisis as a security threat. Placing peace at the centre of response strategies can support more sustainable efforts while making solidarity resilient in communities.

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