Despite growing calls inside Lebanon for the repatriation of Syrian refugees, a report released Monday found that most do not want to return home until a political solution is reached.
The Carnegie Middle East Center’s new report, “Unheard Voices: What Syrians Need to Return Home,” found that the majority of Syrian refugees interviewed are unwilling to return to Syria unless a deal is reached that ensures their safety and security, access to justice and right of return to their place of origin.
The report concluded that refugees in Lebanon have “little faith” in such a peace deal being reached and so believe that they will be staying in their host country for the foreseeable future.
This comes as calls inside Lebanon mount for the international community to assist with refugees returning to Syria for fear that they represent a security concern, affect the country’s delicate sectarian balance and impact access to quality services.
Lebanon is home to one of the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, with approximately 995,512 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in the country. Unofficial estimates place the real number at more than 1.5 million.
Relations between refugees and some Lebanese communities have “significantly deteriorated in recent years,” the report said, with over half of those interviewed experiencing harassment or physical abuse.
Tensions have been exacerbated, it said, by the growing “toxic public discourse” and “xenophobic rhetoric of some Lebanese political leaders.”
Maha Yahya, the report’s author, said that Lebanon needs to start preparing for the likelihood refugees will stay long term.
As a priority, the government needs to address issues concerning residency, employment, access to services and housing.
In terms of accommodation, although 80 percent of the refugees interviewed for the report said that they live in rented housing, only 6 percent have a valid rental agreement in place.
As a result, many said they were often exploited by their landlords, evicted without due process or living in overcrowded spaces to meet rent payments.
Employment and access to the labor market is an area where Yahya expressed hope of real change.
“We saw in CEDRE some efforts toward employment opportunities for refugees, but we could do more,” she said, referring to the international conference held in Paris earlier this month in support of Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure.
She pointed to the construction industry as a key area where Lebanon could go from thinking of Syrians as a burden to perceiving their skills as an “opportunity to harness” for the benefit of the sector.
“Whilst Lebanon might want the refugees to go home, they need to start acknowledging that most of them won’t and start planning for the long term,” Yahya said.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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