The Syrian refugee crisis: understanding and responding to tensions and conflicts in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey
As of February 2016, approximately 4.6 million Syrians were registered as refugees with the UNHCR: 2.6 million in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon (approximately 30 per cent of the population), and 628,000 refugees in Jordan. The actual numbers of refugees from Syria, however, are likely to be higher in all of these contexts, and are increasing steadily. As the war extends into its fifth year, neighbouring countries hosting these large populations are struggling to cope with the continued influx. Resources and infrastructure are strained, social services are unable to meet the needs of the growing population, and rising prices and job scarcity are increasingly sources of stress for both refugees and host communities.
With support from the EU under the Instrument for Stability, Saferworld and Conciliation Resources and partners Human Relief Foundation and Identity Center from Jordan, Beyond Reform and Development from Lebanon, as well as PODEM, Baytna Syria, and ORSAM from Turkey organised a series of workshops in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to bring together a wide range of actors (civil society organisations, international NGOs, local and national authorities, donors) to examine dynamics relating to the presence of Syrian refugees in each context, including options to respond to tensions and conflicts which have begun to appear.
- Balancing short-term relief with long-term responses: Local, national, and international actors have prioritised immediate humanitarian needs since the start of the refugee crisis. However, longer-term planning to address social and economic integration has been overlooked. This has contributed to coordination difficulties, growing tensions at the local level, an increasing reliance on aid, and missed opportunities to examine and build on the potential benefits that might come with the presence of refugees. For example, measures to promote access to the legal labour market is a key issue in all three countries, not just for the livelihood of Syrians and their ability to integrate into society but will also be integral to any post-war reconstruction in Syria.
- Strengthening governance at all levels: Emerging tensions related to access to resources, livelihoods and basic services – for both Syrian refugees and host communities – have highlighted, and in places heightened, pre-existing governance challenges at the local and national level. International engagement in these countries should also aim to support frameworks and processes which will improve communication, coordination and collaboration between different actors, including local and national authorities, civil society organisations and INGOs.
- Addressing the challenges of social cohesion and integration: The sheer number of refugees in neighbouring countries has placed a significant burden on recipient countries, and as the crisis enters its fifth year, frustration has grown among host communities. While incidents have so far not led to significant insecurity in any of the countries, peacebuilding initiatives that bring together host communities and refugees remain necessary and significant to prevent long-term conflict.
“Emerging tensions related to access to resources, livelihoods and basic services – for both Syrian refugees and host communities – have highlighted, and in places heightened, pre-existing governance challenges at the local and national level.”Saferworld, Conciliation Resources