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WOMEN REFUGEES IN LEBANON AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF LIMITED LEGAL STATUS ON THEIR HOUSING, LAND AND PROPERTY RIGHTS

The ability to stay legally in Lebanon has proved to be central to all aspects of refugee lives. As Lebanon has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention, Syrian nationals and Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) seeking safety and protection must obtain entry and stay documentation to be considered ‘legally’ present by the Lebanese authorities. Strikingly, recent studies have shown that 53-70% of Syrian refugees and 86% of PRS do not have the ability to stay legally in Lebanon.Without this ‘legal stay’, not only do refugees face possible criminal sanctions (including arrest, detention, departure orders or deportation) but they also face many consequent obstacles. These include limited freedom of movement, lack of work or livelihood options, inability to access services and humanitarian assistance (such as healthcare, education or food), lack of access to justice and limited access to civil documentation (such as birth registration or marriage registration). Many of these obstacles contravene Lebanon’s obligations to uphold human rights and result in refugees struggling to survive in Lebanon while trying to deal with the host country’s growing resentment about their continued presence, leaving little hope or choice.

With an evolving situation for refugees, characterised by a more restrictive environment limiting the ability to work or move freely without legal stay, cuts in humanitarian assistance, no new registration with UNHCR and protracted displacement, refugees have increasingly limited options. Within this context, understanding the situation for women refugees in particular, including the protection risks they face, is essential in order to develop and provide appropriate interventions taking their perspective and specific challenges into account. While issues are identified and considered individually, working
out how they connect in the bigger picture is also necessary to have a comprehensive approach towards understanding the implications for refugees in Lebanon.

This briefing is based on data collected through NRC fieldwork and then analysed in relation to the current context for refugees in Lebanon. The aim is to highlight some of the consequences of limited legal status, with a specific focus on the coping mechanisms of refugees to try to maintain their housing each month and what impact such, often negative, coping mechanisms have on women in particular. While the consequences identified are not exhaustive, they confirm many of the issues identified from NRC fieldwork and highlight those that require on going assessment and analysis.

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