Refugees from Syria in Lebanon
The number of refugees registered with UNHCR in Lebanon is 1,033,513. Lebanon is believed to host more than 1.5 million refugees from Syria. Lebanon’s own population is estimated to be under 4.5 million, so almost 1 in 4 people on Lebanese soil are now refugees from Syria.
Key facts about the refugee population:
- The majority of refugees living in Lebanon come from the cities of Homs, Hama and Damascus and their surroundings.
- Approximately 0.2% of the refugee population are stateless – mostly stateless Kurds (according to UNHCR).
- An estimated 30,000 Palestinian Refugees from Syria are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon.
- Over 40,000 babies have been born to refugees in the country since the start of the conflict in Syria.
- 20% of refugee households in Lebanon are headed by women.
Where are the refugees:
There is a ‘no camp’ policy in Lebanon and therefore refugees from Syria live scattered across the country in urban settings or Informal Tented Settlements (ITS). Many, especially Palestinians displaced from Syria, reside in Palestinian neighbourhoods and camps.
A ‘refugee’ in the Lebanese legal context:
Lebanon is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention. It does not officially recognise ‘refugees’ - there is currently no category in national law for refugees who are fleeing conflict or persecution and seeking safety in Lebanon.
At the beginning of the conflict entrance into Lebanon from Syria was easy. However since January 2015, Syrian nationals wishing to enter Lebanon must disclose their reason for entering and meet the requirements for entry as one of the permitted categories (transit, student, tourism, etc.). For each category, specified documents must be presented at the border.
All foreigners are obliged to obtain a residency permit. To obtain a residency permit, refugees must either show their UNHCR registration certificate and sign a pledge to abide by Lebanese law or be sponsored by a Lebanese national who signs a pledge of responsibility on their behalf (the only option for refugees not registered with UNHCR or otherwise not deemed genuine refugees by the General Security Office). The issuing of a residency permit is not guaranteed in either case. An increasing number of applications for extension of legal stay based on UNHCR registration are being rejected. For some refugees the fees for obtaining a residency permit, which amount to $200 per year per person aged 15 and above, are prohibitive.
Nationality law in Lebanon:
Lebanese nationality law (like Syrian nationality law) is based on paternal jus sanguinis. This means that only Lebanese men can automatically transmit their nationality to their children. Lebanese nationality law contains a safeguard against statelessness at birth, whereby a foundling or a child born in Lebanon who does not acquire another nationality should be considered Lebanese (again similar to Syrian nationality law). However, in practice this safeguard is rarely implemented. Naturalisation is a highly sensitive and politicised issue and remains at the discretion of the Lebanese State.
Statelessness in Lebanon:
Lebanon has not ratified either of the Statelessness Conventions and does not have a legal framework to address this issue. Lebanon as an estimated in situ stateless population of between 80,000 and 200,000 (in addition to stateless refugees).