The problem of the displaced from Syria between myths and reality

Fri, 05/30/2014

Although the number of Syrian displaced has now exceeded the one million count, the Lebanese government is still unable to address this serious problem other than through, raising red flags with regards to its negative social and economic implications, and appealing for financial aid from donor countries. The latter party seems to have abandoned it responsibilities, leaving the Lebanese and Syrian citizens to struggle with the difficult social and economic circumstances.

It is very clear that officials and politicians in Lebanon have continued to raise doom and gloom about the negative pitfalls of the displacement crisis, while the number of displaced people increased and spread out to various parts of the country. It is to be recalled that these same officials and politicians were the first to welcome the Syrian displaced people, with the start of the war in Syria in 2011, motivated by their well known narrow political interests. In doing so, they have attracted the displaced with promises of incoming foreign aid and by encouraging local communities to accommodate them in their respective areas.

At the time, these politicians had resisted any attempt to regulate and control the flow and presence of both the displaced population and armed Syrians opposition forces. However, their attitude changed subsequently with the developing political and security /military situations in both Syria and Lebanon and with the deepening economic problems that gradually became of primary concern to all. These new positions were also informed, by the disappointing response for aid from donors which remained at a minimum. With these rapid developments, those who once welcomed the influx of the Syrian displaced shifted their positions and started calling for limiting their flow under the guise that it poses now a real threat to Lebanon and jeopardize its identity. This was of course accompanied by blatantly racist calls and open demands for throwing the Syrians refugees outside Lebanon, into camps to be located inside the border of Syria.

While it is true that the total numbers of Syrian displaced has now exceeded what was expected at the beginning of the Syrian conflict, yet, most politicians continue to disregard the advantages and profits made by many economic interests as a result of the displacement movement. In fact, there are many concrete signs pointing out to the fact that the displaced people have positively contributed to an otherwise sluggish Lebanese economy through increased consumption and demand on real estate sector and housing.

Also of significance, is the impact of the much lower paid Syrian labor and the significant amount of profits being generated by various economic sectors. This economic reality is in contradiction with the outspoken and populist general public declarations made against Syrian labor which are widely echoed by the media.
Indeed, the endemic confessional divisions in Lebanon have invariably resulted in conflicting views with regards to the Syrian displacement issue. As usual, when confronted with a thorny issue, the Lebanese politicians are unable to reach a national consensus and thus prefer to defer the problem and address it with superficial band-aid while appealing for external help.

As such, there are serious doubts about the effectiveness of the recently announced formation of an emergency committee headed by the Prime Minister to follow-up on the displacement crisis. It would be safe to predict that the government’s approach to this issue will face the same fate as to the continuous saga of the new salary scale which has bounced from one parliamentary committee to another to no avail.

We conclude by saying that it will be much better for politicians to focus on achieving a national compromise on this matter rather than furthering the current political rift within the country. One would have hoped that various political parties would act together to end the tragic war in Syria, rather than fuel it by taking one side or the other. Such efforts will undoubtedly speed up the return of the displaced people to Syria, relieve their present suffering as well as ease the burden of the Lebanese host communities.