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International Public Policy Journal Weekly Briefing

Reza Majd19 March 2018

Compiled by Nicole Watson and Tommaso Bernabo’

Calls for Papers

Interested in writing an article for the IPPR Journal published in September? We are currently accepting articles on the topic “Truth and Principles”. Articles are anywhere from 1000-5000 words in the form of opinion pieces, policy reviews, or longform, and we do accept papers previously submitted for classes (provided you confirm with your professor). More information can be found on our website.


If you are interested in writing about social media, AI, the internet or any other forms of technology for our “Internet and Tech month”, Nicole and Yasi would love to hear from you (nicole.watson.17@ucl.ac.uk ; y.qureshi.17@ucl.ac.uk). If you would like to get involved with our Internet and Tech podcast, please contact Taylor Matthews (trcmatthews14@googlemail.com ).


If you are interested in writing something, but unsure whether it would work or how to go about it, please contact our Journal Editor, Alejandro Briones Sosa (Alejandro.sosa.17@ucl.ac.uk).


Week in review

Leopoldo López Speaks Out, and Venezuela’s Government Cracks Down

The opposition leader’s interview with The New York Times Magazine coincides with a renewed offensive against dissent (NY Times)


Duterte to withdraw Philippines from ICC after ‘outrageous attacks’

The Philippines said on Wednesday it is withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to what President Rodrigo Duterte called “outrageous” attacks by U.N. officials and violations of due process by the ICC (Reuters).


Egypt’s 2018 presidential ‘election’: What you need to know

Egyptians abroad prepare to vote beginning on March 16 in Egypt’s fourth contested presidential polls (AlJazeera).


Former South African president Jacob Zuma faces corruption charges

Indictment is tied to a $2.5 billion arms deal from the 1990s (Washington Post).


Mass protests in Slovakia after PM Fico quits

About 65,000 people attended anti-government protests in Bratislava, organisers say (BBC).


Aung San Suu Kyi asks Australia and Asean for help with Rohingya crisis

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says Myanmar leader seeks humanitarian and ‘capacity building’ assistance (The Guardian).


Turkey claims to have encircled Afrin, besieging up to 200,000

Inhabitants of majority Kurdish Syrian city fear a blockade and bombardment are imminent (The Guardian).


Russia stockpiling nerve agent – Johnson

The UK foreign secretary also dismisses claims the substance may have come from a UK laboratory (BBC).


Putin basks in election he could not lose

Vladimir Putin won a landslide victory by sidelining opponent and stoking nationalist sentiment, Sarah Rainsford in Moscow says (BBC).




Events this week:

‘Producing Global Governance in the Global Factory – Prof. Virginia Haufler’ (link)

When: 20th March, 6.15pm

Where: E28 Harrie Massey LT, 25 Gordon Street, London, WC1H 0AY





Refugees from “The Northern Triangle”

Reza Majd16 March 2018

Written by: Johnathan King

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.


 The current crisis in the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America has resulted in millions of refugees leaving their countries of origin. The Northern Triangle is made up of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. All three nations face conflicts inflicted by gang violence, drug trafficking, corruption, and insecurity. This latter has developed a system where gangs dictate their will on society. Throughout the mid 2000’s, the United States granted temporary status to thousands of refugees from these troubled nations due to the rising violence, influx of criminal incidents, and rise of death per capita. The US government granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for asylum seekers due to natural disasters or domestic conflicts. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are 3.4 million Central American migrants who have migrated to the United States. From 2011 to 2016, the number of refugees fleeing from the “Northern Triangle” region to the U.S. increased by 2,249 percent. The majority are women and children. Additionally, the refugees have fled using migratory patterns through the southern border of Mexico, which are operated by narco-traffickers. The routes to the United States are very dangerous and it is an expensive journey for a single person, let alone for a whole family to take. Yet, refugees have continuously borne the costs and risks to flee for the promise of a better life since 2010.

Since the peak of refugee migration in 2014, Mexico has seen an influx of migrants attempting to cross their northern border into the United States. Policies under President Obama’s administration aimed to provide temporary legal status for refugees seeking asylum. However, since President Trump took office, the number of refugees attempting to cross the border into the US has dramatically decreased. According to International Crisis Group, refugees were estimated to be around 500,000 – 600,000 fleeing from the Northern Triangle to the U.S. every year. In 2016, after the implementation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. government instructed to curb the flow of non-legal refugees and deport them. Many of President Obama’s policies expired at the beginning of 2018 and some other temporary status programs are ready to expire in March 2018.

The flow of refugees has created an economic, social, and political effect that directly impacts millions of people and the governments involved. Refugees who have successfully fled El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala send portions of their incomes back to family members and friends who are struggling in their countries of origin. The Northern Triangle nations have large percentages of their countries Global Domestic Income produced directly by remittances sent from former national residents. The resulting dependency on refugee remittances leads to a situation where the government does not have the means to make a significant contribution. Additionally, corruption levels within the political arenas in the “Northern Triangle” are detrimental to overall national growth.

Currently, the “Northern Triangle” countries suffer from severe violence, extortion, and insecurity. Refugees have migrated outwardly from their countries because they seek an alternative lifestyle. They are pushed to make the decision to leave these countries for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because by fleeing they have the ability to create a better life for themselves. The corruption, gang violence, drug trade, and inability to improve social mobility have produced massive migration. According to the Council on Foreign Relations:

Nearly 10 percent of the Northern Triangle countries’ thirty million residents        have left, mostly for the United States. In 2013, as many as 2.7 million             people born in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were living in the      United States, up from an estimated 1.5 million people in 2000. Nearly one      hundred thousand unaccompanied minors arrived to the United States from El        Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras between October 2013 and July 2015,   drawing attention to the region’s broader emigration trend. At the United    States’ urging, Mexico stepped up enforcement along its southern border,          apprehending 70 percent more Central Americans in 2015 than it did in the            year before (Council on Foreign Relations, 2016).

The criminal elements embedded in the Northern Triangle region have developed into a crisis where refugees have left seeking opportunity elsewhere. Due to the high levels of violence, individual households send members to gain incomes in areas where more opportunities are available. Because crime and corruption is so seismic, refugees have become a mode of production to help support those still living in the countries of origin. The economic struggles in the region have led to a system of remittances being sent home from refugees and migrants back to families and loved ones. Remittances sent back to Honduras from the U.S. account for 18.0 percent of the country’s GDP. In U.S. dollars, remittances are estimated to equate to $3,863,740.00 (IMF, 2017). The number of net migrants for Honduras is -8 and for Guatemala, -6, which both are significantly less than El Salvador. By analysing the data, we can infer that there is more of a concentration of former refugees from El Salvador because more refugees have migrated outward of the country. Compared to Guatemala and Honduras, El Salvador has higher net indicators of nationals who have fled mainly north towards the United States. Even though the number of migrants fleeing from Honduras is lower, both El Salvador and Honduras share high levels of remittances. Honduras has a larger population but does not receive as high a number of remittances as El Salvador does. Remittances, in effect, are the economic instruments that evade the harms of insecurity and crime, and act as financial support systems linking families and loved ones.



 The Northern Triangle states have created a vacuum of refugees due to severe violence and gang warfare. Policies have temporarily given refuge to migrants fleeing for their lives, but those policies are coming to an end. With the rise of President Trump’s rhetoric and attack on criminal groups whose origins are from the region, the future conditions for refugees are unknown. Economic remittances have created a state of dependency from refugees to those back home, acting as a monetary lifeline for many individual households. What will happen without that sector of revenue? The refugee crisis coupled with political instability is a product of insecurity where mass populations are going to be returned to the region with no positive improvable prospects for the region. The refugee crisis in the Northern Triangle has direct implications for the Americas in general and future policies regarding refugee status will be very important to monitor going forward.




Council on Foreign Relations. (2016). Central America’s Violent Northern Triangle. [online] Available at: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/central-americas-violent-northern-triangle [Accessed 22 Dec. 2017].


Kunz, R. (2013). Political economy of global remittances. London: Routledge.


Lesser,G. and Batalova, J. (2017). Central American Immigrants in the United States [online] migrationpolicy.org. Available at: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/central-american-immigrants-united-states [Accessed 20 Feb. 2018].


International Crisis Group. (2017). Undocumented Migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America [online] Available at https://www.crisisgroup.org/latin-america-caribbean/central-america/el-salvador/undocumented-migration-northern-triangle-central-america[Accessed 16 Feb. 2018].


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (2016). Migration Policy Debates. [online] Available at: http://www.oecd.org/els/mig/migration-policy-debates-11.pdf [Accessed 16 Dec. 2017].


World Bank. (2016). Data. [online] Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/BX.TRF.PWKR.DT.GD.ZS?locations=SV [Accessed 19 Dec. 2017].



A Trumpian Take on Migration

Reza Majd14 March 2018

Written by:Isobel-Blakeway Phillips

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

 In honour of President Trump’s unique communication style, IPPR presents a satirical piece on the Donald’s particular approach to decision making and logic. Translation services can be purchased for $99.99 from the White House gift shop.

If you enjoy this or want to write one for your own favourite politician, let us know!

Source: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8612/29381357345_27b53e0902_b.jpg

I’ve been hearing, about this “migrant crisis”, have you heard of this? It’s a big thing, very big. People have been talking. And they say to me, “Donald, you’re a great guy, and you’ve stuck with this mess. Obama has made such a mess. And people are laughing at us” And they’re right. People are laughing at us. These migrants are coming into our country, crossing our borders and laughing at us. They are taking our jobs, which are great by the way, really excellent, the best in the world, and they’re taking them like candy. We’re being taking advantage of by these migrants, who are great I’m sure. Some of them are really great guys. There’s a guy in our office, Juan I think he’s called or John? Or maybe Pedro. Something ethnic. He’s from Mexico but he’s a great guy. He’s a dreamer. But we are all dreamers, all Americans are dreamers, and the migrants and the people crossing our borders, they’re making us look weak and they are stealing our dreams. You know I had a dream last night, it was a great dream, really fantastic. But when I woke up, I couldn’t remember it. It was gone. Just gone. So Sad. And you know what, the migrants have been taking dreams. That’s just what I’ve heard. Because they don’t respect us.

Many many people, so many people, and from all over, not just from the swamp (which we’re going to drain by the way) have been coming up to me and telling me “Donald”, I think you’re great, but we need to fix this migration problem. The Republicans in Congress and the Senate, they’re weak, and the Democrats are obsolete, they’re not relevant, they don’t do anything. But you are great and we want you to fix this”.

Everyone is now saying America is pathetic. Obamacare is a joke, the Democrats are all losers, and Fake News Media is telling lies. Lies and fake news. Big lies. We were the big bully, but we were not smartly led. And we were the big bully who was the big stupid bully. So I am here to announce the best policy ever, it’s going to be fantastic, really fantastic. It will make America great again. Which we already are, great, we are fantastic, but it will make America even greater. We have come up with this really great plan, a really sophisticated system, I don’t think you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Have you heard of these things called “Visas”? They’re massive. HUGE. But they don’t work. Many people don’t even get them, and then they join gangs, it’s ridiculous. They enter this country and they join gangs and that’s where gangs come from. Have you been to LA? It’s a mess. There are gangs everywhere. And did you know about the prohibition? That was just the migrants making gangs it was bad. Really bad. Like there was just terror everywhere from these gangs of New York in the prohibition. I watched this movie recently. It’s got Leo in it, Leo DiCaprio, he’s a great guy, but frankly a lightweight on climate change, but he was in this movie about this couple caught up in the gangs that the migrants are making.

But we’re going to fix that. We’ve been working on this tremendous plan. We. Are. Going. To. Get. Rid. Of. Visas. And replace them with tattoos on all migrants’ foreheads. Everyone who enters the country will have to get a permanent tattoo on their forehead that’s a bar code, it’s gonna be massive. Everybody’s talking about it. I’ve seen this, and I’ve sort of witnessed it—in fact, in two cases I have actually witnessed it. They had these massive tattoos on their faces, and they were respected. Everyone around them said, “These are two really great guys, they went out, and they got tattoos on their face, and we know they’re not going to do anything bad because we will know who they are.” It’s amazing. They love it. And it’s the Cyber. We’re going to use the Cyber to make sure these people don’t join gangs and die like Leo. It will be great. This Bigly policy is going to use the Cyber and we’re going to solve the migrant crisis. There will be. No. More. Migrants. Gone. No more. They’ll just be these Americans with bar codes on their heads. We’ve used this in my hotels to keep up with our staff and it’s been great. We always know who is staff and who isn’t. They wear uniforms, but now we can make sure we still know on Halloween when everyone’s in costumes. Did you know I throw a Halloween party every year? It’s great, really great. You should look at the pictures. The Times did an article on it last year even though I didn’t invite them. I said, “You guys aren’t invited to my party” and they cried. Ask Ivanka, she saw.

I’ve talked to people about this, I have many many friends, the likes of which you have never seen, they are so smart, and I have talked to Ivanka and Jerrod, who are both beautiful, so sexy, and they all say, “Donald, Don-Don, you are a genius. This is the best plan we’ve ever seen.” And you know what, I agree with them.

So in conclusion, I agree with you, Nancy, I think the wall is a great plan, and I think we can fix this dreamers problem, and I will sign anything that comes onto my desk because I can’t read and because I like holding up the papers to the photographers, but I want it to be a clean bill. It’s going to include the bar codes and the Cyber, and we’re going to build that wall and I think that will Make America Great Again.

Refugees in Southeast Asia: what have been and will be done?

Reza Majd12 March 2018

Written by: Ahmad Shukri Ahmad Faris

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors


 Whenever we heard about the issue of refugees in Southeast Asia, most people would immediately think of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. Surely it is one of the emerging refugee crisis for the past few years especially as the current de facto head of government is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The most recent headlines of the crisis in Rakhine State came last year from the exodus back in August. Two years before, this region received international spotlight after up to 8,000 Rohingya people stranded in boats in the Andaman Sea for more than two months after the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand refused to receive them. Although they finally allowed the refugees to land, hundreds of people had already died before they ended the crisis. This situation created a bad perception of how Southeast Asian states recognised refugees in the region, which was worsened by the fact that only a few of these countries are signatories of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: Cambodia and the Philippines – members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – and East Timor. With this in mind, this article will look at the ways ASEAN state members addressed the refugee crisis, and how other countries in the region reacted to it.

Before the Rohingyas, this region has also been the destination of Indochinese refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos after 1975; Montagnards tribal minorities from Vietnam also after 1975; East Timor refugees in 2000; and Papuan refugees (Weatherbee 2009). The 1975 flow of refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos came after the communist victories, which mainly targeted the old South Vietnam government, the Hmong (a Lao ethnic minority), and thousands of Cambodians. The increasing economic problems and the Khmer Rouge – a genocide by the Communist Party of Kampuchea – pushed around 150,000 Cambodians to the UNHCR camps allocated throughout the region. In addition, thousands of other refugees either remained along the borders, sought asylum in neighbouring Thailand, or moved to other Southeast Asian states. Although ASEAN member states – including the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia – were among the recipients of the refugees, they were only the transit sites before the UNHCR transferred the asylums to the U.S., where more than 1.3 million have been successfully taken in. We can see that in this crisis, ASEAN states were only involved in the displacement as first asylum countries but not for permanent resettlement. This shows a limited involvement of the regional states to host refugees inside their border, which put their commitment level into question. However, we should also consider the fact that almost all Southeast Asian nations were decolonised states. At this point, they were still redeveloping; thus, they did not have the capacity especially in terms of resources to host that massive number of refugees. Therefore, it is worth to look at a more recent refugee crisis to see how differently these countries have reacted.

In 1999, another refugee crisis emerged in this region in East Timor, a newly independent state from Indonesia and an ASEAN member. According to the Human Rights Watch, around 200,000 East Timorese became refugees, mostly into West Timor, but also into other parts of Indonesia. This crisis was greatly caused by paramilitary anti-independence groups who triggered rampage and violence against the population, which led to intimidation and destruction of property. The displacement of the refugees in this crisis did not significantly affect other Southeast Asian states like in the previous crisis, as they were only displaced internally or as far as to Indonesia. However, the allegation that the Indonesian government supported the anti-independence militia put pressure on the ASEAN member states to resolve this issue and allow repatriation. Despite the pressure, ASEAN states remained vigilant until the UN Security Council allowed the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) to operate in this country. Subsequently, ASEAN member states became more supportive of the UN efforts. Malaysia contributed to a Force Commander in the UN Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET), which then later succeeded by a Filipino Lieutenant-General (Dupont 2000). Thailand and the Philippines were the leading countries, 1,580 and 600 personnel from each country respectively, who were willing to provide substantial ground forces to support the UN mission in the country (Dupont 2000). Singapore also provided two heavy landing ships for this mission. Although Australia – a non-ASEAN state – was the leading contributor to this crisis, recognition should still be given to the ASEAN member states for their contributions to the crisis despite ASEAN’s non-intervention policy. Their assistance has allowed repatriation for more than 200,000 East Timorese four years after the outbreak of the crisis. The influence of the militia groups has also reduced over the years, although at the beginning they even tried to prevent refugees from returning to their country.

The Southeast Asian region is relatively a new-developing region where the regional institution, ASEAN, has just celebrated its 50-year anniversary. Despite most states only started to gain independence in the mid-20th century, ASEAN countries lent their hand to assist the refugee crisis in the region. However, there is still a lot of improvement needed in terms of supporting the rights of the refugees. By not signing the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the countries are not obliged under international law to protect the refugee rights including, “the right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions” (Article 32); “the right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State” (Article 31); and “the right to be issued identity and travel documents” (Article 27 and 28). These are essential rights for the refugees because some countries may label the refugees as “illegal immigrants” to justify their actions to expatriate them from their territories. As I have shown in the article, Southeast Asian states have still been involved in assisting the refugees’ crisis in the region. However, to what extent can we trust these countries to protect their human rights?



BBC. (2017). East Timor Profile – Timeline. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14952883.

Bemma, A. (2017). Malaysia: A Rohingya safe haven? [online] Al Jazeera. Available at http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/malaysia-rohingya-safe-haven-171122190637814.html.

Dupont, A. (2000). ASEAN’s Response to the East Timor Crisis. Australian Journal of International Affairs. 54:2. 163-170.

Human Rights Watch. (1999). Indonesia/East Timor: Forced Expulsion to West Timor and the Refugee Crisis–Summary. Available at: http://pantheon.hrw.org/reports/1999/wtimor/.

Janowski, K. (2002). East Timorese Refugee Saga Comes to An End. Ed. Ron Redmond. [online] UNHCR. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/uk/news/latest/2002/12/3e1060c84/east-timorese-refugee-saga-comes-end.html.

UNHCR. (n.d.). Rohingya emergency. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/uk/rohingya-emergency.html.

UNHCR (n.d.). State Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/uk/protection/basic/3b73b0d63/states-parties-1951-convention-its-1967-protocol.html.

UNHCR. (2011). The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Its 1967 Protocol. Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/uk/about-us/background/4ec262df9/1951-convention-relating-status-refugees-its-1967-protocol.html.

Weatherbee, D. (2009). Southeast Asia: The Struggle for Autonomy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Yi, B. L. (2015). Malaysia tells thousands of Rohingya refugees to ‘go back to your country’. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/13/malaysia-tells-thousands-of-rohingya-refugees-to-go-back-to-your-country.






International Public Policy Journal Weekly Briefing

Reza Majd12 March 2018

Compiled by Nicole Watson and Tommaso Bernabo’


Calls for Papers

Interested in writing an article for the IPPR Journal published in September? We are currently accepting articles on the topic “Truth and Principles”. Articles are anywhere from 1000-5000 words in the form of opinion pieces, policy reviews, or longform, and we do accept papers previously submitted for classes (provided you confirm with your professor). More information can be found on our website.

If you are interested in writing about social media, AI, the internet or any other forms of technology for our “Internet and Tech month”, Nicole and Yasi would love to hear from you (nicole.watson.17@ucl.ac.uk ; y.qureshi.17@ucl.ac.uk). If you would like to get involved with our Internet and Tech podcast, please contact Taylor Matthews (trcmatthews14@googlemail.com ).

If you are interested in writing something, but unsure whether it would work or how to go about it, please contact our Journal Editor, Alejandro Briones Sosa (Alejandro.sosa.17@ucl.ac.uk).


Week in review

China approves the removal of presidential term limits allowing for indefinite rule of the leader

China’s Xi Jinping could stay in power indefinitely after parliament backs constitutional changes (BBC).


Syria army ‘splits rebel-held Eastern Ghouta in three’

Government forces capture largest town in Eastern Ghouta as death toll surpasses 1,000 in three weeks (Aljazeera).


How the tech industry is attracting more women

Removing macho jargon from job ads is one of the strategies that is producing results
(Financial Times).


‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli sentenced to 7 years in prison — says, ‘This is my fault’

Shkreli was convicted last summer of securities fraud charges linked to hedge funds and a drug company he founded (CNBC).


The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News

Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information (The Atlantic).


Saudi Arabia and UK hail multibillion-dollar alliance amid protests and political pressure

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the U.K.’s prime minister launched an economic and investment partnership worth billions of dollars on Wednesday (CNBC).


President Trump’s Exaggerated and Misleading Claims on Trade

The president’s claims about enormous trade deficits, tariffs and the World Trade Organization are overstated and contradicted by his own economic report (NY Times).


Rape of men and boys in Central African Republic is ‘ignored’ crime

Fighters have used sexual violence against men and boys as a tool to “humiliate, emasculate, and terrorise” perceived enemies. (Thomas Reuters Foundation)


Events this week:

‘Europe’s View on Brexit and Beyond’ (link)

When: 15th March, 6.15pm

Where: JZ Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, Gower St, London, WC1E 6XA





‘Whenever it rains in Syria, the Lebanese have to Open their Umbrellas’

Reza Majd7 March 2018

Written by: Simon Daunat

Disclaimer: This blog post solely reflects the opinion of the author and should not be taken to represent the general views of IPPR’s management team or those of fellow authors.

Syrian Refugees in Arsal (Lebanon), March 2014.


The saying goes, ‘whenever it rains in Syria, the Lebanese have to open their umbrella’. Indeed, since the beginning of the Syrian crisis Lebanon has been host to massive numbers of Syrian refugees. With a population of 4.5 million inhabitants, the ‘Cedar Country’ welcomed at least 1.5 million Syrians, accounting for approximately 25 percent of its population. Added to the 450,000 Palestinians already present, this massive influx of refugees makes Lebanon the country with the highest concentration per capita of refugees. Whereas Prime Minister Saad Hariri recently re-affirmed he would not force Syrians to return, Lebanon does not have the capacity to bear such a responsibility, affecting both Lebanese and refugees.

In 2017, the World Bank stated that educational and health infrastructures were struggling to manage such a population increase. For instance, in 2016, demand for hospital care increased by 40%, putting the health sector on the precipice. This sharp increase in the population also pressured the labour market and augmented prices of commodities and rents. As a result, since 2011 170,000 Lebanese were pushed into poverty (Oxfam). Moreover, the crisis exacerbated socio-political tensions in the country; with a political power-system distributed along sectarian lines, the massive arrival of (mainly) Sunni Muslims in the country has increased fear within the broader population. Indeed, the large arrival of Sunnis triggered the memories of the Palestinian exodus, which contributed to a certain extent to the Lebanese Civil War (1975-90). Hence, a national opinion poll conducted in 2013 highlighted that 74% of Lebanese respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Syrian refugees were posing a threat to the national security and stability’. Whereas tensions have not yet reached the point of violent escalations, they have considerable repercussion on refugee integration.

Thus in 2015, Lebanon took a tougher stance towards refugees marked by the introduction of visa restrictions, and more difficulty to access to residency permits (and their renewal). Lebanon is not a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee convention. Consequently, 80% of Syrian refugees lack legal status (Human Rights Watch), subsequently leaving them exposed to arrest, abuse and exploitation. Furthermore, the lack of status and residency permits affects refugees’ access to jobs and basic services: according to UNCHR, in 2016 58% of refugees in Lebanon lived in extreme poverty (a growing number compared to previous years); and 500,000 Syrian aged 3-18 had no access to education, endangering their future economic and social integration in the country. Without any prospect of access to legal status, jobs and education, the integration of Syrians is unlikely to occur.

Nevertheless, the main constraint to refugees’ integration derives from the Lebanese confessional system. This system is supposed to represent the demographic share of each religious community. Therefore, political power is distributed proportionally among Lebanon’s 17 religious groups. However, such a system prevents any possible integration/ naturalisation of refugees by fear of triggering sectarian tensions due to sudden demographic imbalances among those communities. The Palestinian integration in Lebanon is a striking example. Many Palestinians arrived as early as in 1948 and today still face severe economic social and political difficulties. In 2016, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA) indicated that more than half of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon still live in camps, where poverty, unemployment, and poor housing conditions remain prevalent. Palestinians face consistent discrimination in hiring and employment opportunities, and rare are those who are granted Lebanese citizenship. The cause of their non-integration was not dictated by economic growth, job market or the infrastructural capacities of the host country (which since their arrival have known prosperous days). Instead, it is mainly due to the incapacity of the current system to integrate refugees in their societies, obliging them to live as ‘second-class citizens’. Today the situation is occurring once more, but this time with millions of more refugees. As Saad Hariri recently declared “Lebanon is on the verge of a breaking point”.

What future can we imagine for refugees in Lebanon? This is what two Lebanese Professors, Karm Medjad and Dr Abdel-Maoula Chaar tried to answer in a report published in 2016 describing three possible outcomes to this crisis. One of them, ‘Phoenexia’, is a scenario where Lebanese society reinvents itself along secular lines, neutralising political tensions, and increasing the integration of refugees. Enabled by strong political and financial assistance from the international community, this would be the only positive and long-term solution to the current crisis. The two other scenarios (keeping confessionalism as the main political system) only predict further instability, deeper sectarian divisions, and in a worst case a balkanisation of Lebanon.

We cannot accurately predict which path Lebanon will take but our only certainty is that Lebanon needs more support from the international community. In a recent UNHCR report it was stated that $2.8 billion is needed to cover the Lebanese Crisis Response Plan 2017-20 to provide “direct humanitarian assistance and protection to vulnerable individual”. However, to this day donors have only committed to $350 million (2018-2020).

Whereas Lebanon shares a large part of the refugee crisis burden, this magnanimity came with a cost. Therefore, it is up to the international community, and particularly Europe (that failed to fulfil its humanist duty) to assist Lebanon in the management of this crisis, in order to provide a brighter future for both Lebanese and refugees.



UNCHR for Syrian Emergency: UNHCR provides humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees and helps the most vulnerable refugees to meet their most urgent needs – including water, food, medicine, blankets and warm clothes and jerry cans:


UNWRA to protect the rights and dignity of Palestine Refugees:





  • Christophersen, M. Liu, J. Thorleifsson, C. and Tiltnes, A. (2013) ‘Lebanese attitudes towards Syrian refugees and the Syrian Crisis’ (Lebanon: ANALP).
  • Human Rights Watch, (2018) ‘Lebanon: Speech Restrictions, Stalled Reforms’ 18 January, Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/lebanon-speech-restrictions-stalled-reforms, Accessed 4 February.
  • Kukrety, N. (2016) ‘Poverty, Inequality and Social Protection In Lebanon’, Oxfam, 20 January.
  • McDowall, A. and Maclean, W. (2018) ‘Lebanon says will not force Syrian refugees to return’ Reuters, 02 February.
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