Unwanted and Refugee: No Current Prospects for Syrian Refugees in the Arab Neighbouring States

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LennerBy Katharina Lenner (RSCAS MW Fellow) (*)
Receiver of the prize for the best dissertation in 2014 from the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO)

In my article ‘Unwanted and refugee: no current prospects for Syrian refugees in the Arab neighbouring states (in German, published in the monthly AK – Analyse und Kritik on Oct 20th, 2015), I discuss the ways in which the Syrian refugee crisis is managed in Jordan and Lebanon, and what this means for the refugees currently taking shelter there. Even though the exact numbers are disputed, even the lower boundaries (10% of the population in Jordan, 25% in Lebanon) dwarf those found in Germany or anywhere else in Europe.

I explain how experiences with previous refugee influxes in the region, particularly of Palestinians, have shaped the ways in which today’s refugees are treated legally and practically. These range from attempts to keep refugees’ legal status relatively vague to concerns over shifting demographic balances as a result of the influx.

Moreover, I show how Syrians are currently used as scapegoats to explain (away) a host of socio-economic problems, especially the lack of jobs and the overuse of resources. Such arguments have facilitated the strengthening of regulations that constrict the ability of Syrians to move and work in both Jordan and Lebanon, as well as the effects of drastically decreased food assistance since the second half of 2014. I argue these factors have helped set in motion both return movements to Syria (especially for the most impoverished refugees) as well as increased attempts to reach Europe (especially for the more well-connected ones).

However, I emphasize that the policy choices of neighbouring states, which may be seen as unwanted or counterproductive in Brussels and other European capitals, are not reason enough for European governments to wash their hands of refugee relief. The main reason for these movements is the conflict in Syria itself. European governments must seek a political solution to the crisis and accept more refugees themselves, rather than blaming Arab host countries and demanding that they change their policies.

Access the full, German-language article here.

(*) The MWPBlog is a platform for MW Fellows to address scholarly topics and comment on current affairs. The thoughts expressed in the posts represent solely the views of the posting Fellows and not of the Max Weber Programme