Dialogue and Local Response: Mechanisms to Conflict Between Host Communities and Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
During the current conflict in Syria, Lebanon has borne the brunt of a severe refugee crisis. As the conflict in Syria rages and takes on new dimensions the number of Syrian refugees flowing into Lebanon continues to rise. In response to the rising levels of tensions, SFCG conducted a conflict scan of 11 host communities in rural South Lebanon as well as Tripoli. The purpose of the scan was to identify the prominent layers and dynamics of local conflict and cooperation between Lebanese residents and Syrian refugees in these communities, in addition to identifying trustworthy leaders and agents of change. The mapping activities of this report consist of a survey with 900 respondents across all target communities as well as a total of 40 qualitative focus groups and 41 interviews with key local informants.
The main sources of division between Lebanese residents and Syrian refugees are the economic pressures, the strain on public services and a perceived lack of access to housing. The increase in local labour supply that the waves of Syrian refugees sparked has led to a downward pressure on wages. Moreover, conflict over humanitarian aid targeting Syrians only increases as economic conditions worsen. Difficult economic conditions manifest themselves in local resentment as well as discriminatory practices and restriction of movement, whereby Lebanese enacted curfews aimed at endowing them with a perceived state of power and normalcy. Moreover, Syrian refugees and labourers are blamed for crime, sexual harassment, and security incidents. Conscious of the Lebanese attitudes and their status as refugees, Syrians rarely voice negative feelings towards their Lebanese counterparts. In regards to violence, the Lebanese showed a higher propensity towards physical confrontation than Syrians who were more conciliatory. Meanwhile, the conflict scan discovered a general trend whereby unemployment was considered the major cause of violent incidents. Among Lebanese, political affiliation was thought to be a main trigger of violent conflicts while Syrians were less assertive about the topic.
Upon identifying the central dynamic of local conflict between Lebanese residents and Syrian Refugees the article provides four recommendations for the humanitarian and development community, namely:
1. Implement economic and poverty reduction programs targeting Syrians and Lebanese in host communities
2. Invest in local municipalities and institutions
3. Empower nascent Syrian engagement as well as participation in local affairs and institutions
4. Conduct community-based campaigns to promote social inclusion of Syrian refugees