THE ISSAM FARES INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC POLICY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
IFI in collaboration with SAWA for Development and Aid held a webinar on "Unpacking the Refugees Situation in Lebanon and the Issue of Return" as part of the Brussels VII Conference on "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" on June 2, 2023. The panel discussion gathered IFI University Fellow Fouad Fouad, Ali Mourad – Kulluna Irada, Fadi Hallisso – Bassmeh and Zeitooneh, Lynn Kseibi – Sawa for Development and Aid, and Tracey Maulfair – UNHCR, moderated by Founder and Director of Sawa for Development and Aid Rouba Mhaissen.
In light of the dangerous escalation against Syrian refugees in Lebanon, including the rising hate speech and calls for their return to Syria, the discussion centered on the need to protect refugees and uphold that their return should be safe, voluntary, and dignified, as well as support the future of Syria in the region. Speakers discussed how large-scale campaigns against Syrian refugees’ presence in Lebanon initiated by some political parties and personalities have resonated with public opinion in some areas in the country. They also noted how some Lebanese were persuaded that the refugees’ burden is more than what Lebanon can handle with the ongoing economic collapse that the country is still witnessing. Nevertheless, it is essential to highlight, as was mentioned, that Lebanese public opinion is not homogeneous, and doesn’t share the same opinion on Syrian refugees, the regime, or the Syrian opposition. While many questions regarding Syrian refugees are posed based on genuine concerns, unfortunately they are miscommunicated.
The panel concluded that the Lebanese state has failed to manage the Syrian refugee issue properly, given the complexity of the issues between refugees and host communities. This is why there is an urgent need to find a solution to the Syrian refugee crisis, while the fate of Syrian refugees remains unknown upon their return.
You can watch the full webinar recording here.