Zahraa Al-Ahmad, Graduate of Carleton University, MA in Political Science
While Lebanon has the largest per capita refugee population in the world, Lebanon’s protection of refugees has been controversial and limited. Lebanon’s complex politics have created an environment for contradictory policies, leaving the international community critical of Lebanon’s intentions and willingness to protect refugees. From its original contested open-border policy to the eventual crackdown on Syrian refugees, this paper offers a historical analysis of the progression of Lebanon’s refugee policies to give context to current responses to refugees. Lebanon’s refugee policies took a drastic turn in 2014 as the Lebanese government shifted from a policy of inaction to a more organized anti-Syrian refugee framework characterized by mass crackdowns, forced repatriation, and limited access to asylum. This paper explores how Lebanon’s shift to an anti-refugee framework was strongly shaped by Lebanon’s social, historical, political, and economic conditions. Some of the main factors that will be discussed include Lebanon’s history of civil war and a difficult relationship with Palestinian refugees, the country’s political and economic instability, and its complicated sectarian political system. The paper concludes with recommendations for future research on Lebanon’s refugee policies to build a more analytical and nuanced understanding of the Lebanese response and overall refugee crisis.
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