Glob­al­iza­tion of re­set­tle­ment

Syr­ian refugees in Le­banon are be­ing re­lo­cated to third coun­tries

Executive Magazine - - Economics & Policy - By Jeremy Ar­bid

One might look at the change in num­ber of reg­is­tered Syr­ian refugees in Le­banon dur­ing 2015 and in­cor­rectly as­sume Syria’s civil war is on the wane. Since the Of­fice of the UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UN­HCR) first be­gan rec­og­niz­ing Syr­ian asy­lum seek­ers in Le­banon in 2012, their num­bers have grown year-on-year un­til 2014. In 2015, how­ever, the num­ber of reg­is­tered Syr­ian refugees in Le­banon be­gan go­ing down. The slight de­crease (ap­prox­i­mately 77,000 refugees or 6.7 per­cent as of Novem­ber 30, 2015 — ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent data avail­able) is no in­di­ca­tion that sta­bil­ity is re­turn­ing to Syria. Rather, it is the di­rect re­sult of a Le­banese pol­icy de­ci­sion to push the num­ber down.

The de­cline is in part at­trib­uted to strin­gent visa re­stric­tions put in place in Jan­uary 2015 for Syr­i­ans at­tempt­ing en­trance into Le­banon. The coun­try still grants Syr­i­ans hu­man­i­tar­ian visas, but UN­HCR says “very few” cases have since qual­i­fied. In tan­dem with th­ese new visa rules, the govern­ment passed a de­cree in 2015 to dereg­is­ter refugees, also low­er­ing the num­ber of refugees sup­ported by UN­HCR. In an email ex­change with Ex­ec­u­tive, UN­HCR ex­plains that, “On April 24 [2015], the Min­istry of So­cial Affairs noti- fied UN­HCR that refugees hav­ing en­tered af­ter Jan­uary 5 and hav­ing sub­se­quently reg­is­tered should be dereg­is­tered. UN­HCR was duty bound to com­ply and in­ac­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­als who had en­tered Le­banon af­ter that date.” Based on data from UN­HCR’s web­site, Ex­ec­u­tive cal­cu­lates that at least 37,304 Syr­i­ans lost their refugee sta­tus as a re­sult of this de­ci­sion. Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, UN­HCR only dereg­is­ters refugees if they have died, left the coun­try or stopped show­ing up for meet­ings or other in­ter­ac­tions with UN­HCR. In the first nine months of 2015 — the most re­cent data avail­able — UN­HCR’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Le­banon, Mireille Gi­rard, told Ex­ec­u­tive in a Novem­ber in­ter­view that 149,000 refugees had been dereg­is­tered, up from the 125,000 dereg­is­tered in 2014.


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