Lebanon: Investigating the Situation of Syrian Refugees under COVID-19 Pandemic

Refugees between Lack of Aid and Human Rights Violations

As Lebanon enters the state of general mobilization and health emergencies to fight the spread of COVID-19 for the seventh week in a row, the urgent need for Syrian refugees for humanitarian assistance is increasing, in the absence of a response plan for the situation of refugees who are suffering mainly from a lack of basic living conditions and increasing discriminatory rhetoric against refugees by some Lebanese municipalities, amid a terrible silence by the Lebanese government about arbitrary and discriminatory measures and decisions against refugees, in addition to the wide spread of security forces in the areas that contributes to supporting the decisions of those municipalities to limit the freedom of movement of “Syrian refugees” only, in addition to restricting them in various aspects of life, and increasing their abuse.

Access Center for Human Rights team is monitoring the general situation of Syrian refugees in several Lebanese areas, and has intensified its focus on observation operations as the pandemic begins, which has warmed up the pace of events in Lebanon, and outlined key issues that are likely to cause serious human rights violations to individuals or groups in refugee communities, while the pandemic could put more risk to the lives of thousands of refugees. Our field team found that tension among refugees has increased, and human rights violations has worsened in many areas while few in areas that has developed a local response plan respecting for human rights.

And on the stage of the events that Lebanon witnessed recently from cases of violence, killing and numerous violations against a number of refugees, ACHR team prepared this research paper to summarize the situation of Syrian refugees in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping that the picture of the increasing suffering of refugees will be clarified for the Lebanese authorities, UNHCR, government donors and civil society organizations, and that they are informed of the situation of refugees on the ground in a more comprehensive way than the periodic reports produced by ACHR upon the declaration of a state of emergency and general mobilization last March. In addition, we are aiming to clarify the 

Introduction

needs of civil society organizations working on the front-line with refugees, through which their teams are most at risk of transmission of the virus to them, in order to provide the necessary facilities to expand their activity in refugee communities, mainly those working in the health and relief sectors.

The recommendations made by civil society organizations and alliances in reports and statements, and the recently published position papers outlining the necessary recommendations raised to the Lebanese government and the European Union wishing and/or requesting them to implement, have not been taken into account. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is estimated to be 910,256 registered with UNHCR as of January 2020[1], while the Lebanese government still claims that around 550,000 people living in Lebanon are not registered with UNHCR.[2] The high number of refugees in Lebanon has increased the pressure of the Lebanese authorities on refugees, which has negatively affected their living situation and deprived them from their basic rights, due to the absence of a plan to regulate and manage the asylum situation since the beginning of the refugee crisis in Lebanon in 2011.

Despite the assistance received by Lebanon from the United Nations, some Gulf states and Europe, and the European Union[1] to support the state for hosting refugees, in addition to the activities of civil society organizations – working in the relief sector in particular – contributed to the raising of the country’s economy in many ways, leading to the creation of thousands of jobs for citizens, in addition to increasing supply and demand in the Lebanese markets for various goods, revitalizing the real estate market (sale or rental) and improving the infrastructure of some Lebanese areas and villages and increasing the number of Lebanese schools due to international grants.[2]