1,170,000 Syrian refugees
Humanitarian partners continued winter activities as harsh weather conditions swept across Lebanon. Focusing first on those are among the most vulnerable blankets, winter clothing, fuel vouchers, stoves and temporary cash assistance were provided to over 380,500 persons. Some 10,000 households received weatherproofing kits to protect their dwelling damaged by the snow and wind. Work was done in more than 270 sites to improve drainage and prevent flooding from rain and melting snow.
New regulations entered into force regarding the entry of Syrians to Lebanon. Syrian nationals who wish to enter Lebanon now are only admitted if they can produce valid identity documents and proof that their stay in Lebanon fits into one of the approved reasons for entry.
Seeking refugee in Lebanon is not an approved reason, however, the Government maintains that those with exceptional circumstances in need of protection and assistance in Lebanon will be considered on a case by case. Criteria and processes to determine who qualifies for such exceptional consideration are under development by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The imposition of admission restrictions resulted in a drop of monthly refugee registrations with UNHCR, which fell by close to 80% from a similar period in 2014. Of the 25,000 newly registered refugees in first months of the year, the vast majority had entered Lebanon prior to the imposition of the new restrictions.
The Government also issued new regulations governing the renewal of residency permits. Syrians who are registered with UNHCR must pay a fee of USD 200 and in addition provide: a housing commitment (certified copies of a lease agreement or real-estate deed); certified attestation from a muktar (village leader) that the landlord owns the property; and a notarized pledge not to work. Some refugees are also asked to sign a notarized pledge that they will return to Syria when their permit expires or when requested by the Government.
Most refugees are unable to pay the USD 200 fee and, moreover, unable to produce the documents required since most do not have formal lease agreements. The new regulations have been met with high concern by refugees who have approached UNCHR and partners with questions and request for assistance. Partners report growing insecurity and unease in refugee communities, as refugees are fearful of being arrested or detained because of lapsed residency visas.
In an effort to ensure outreach to all refugees, protection and cash assistance partners started monthly home visits. The aim is to verify the situation of those registered with UNHCR, to determine whether there are needs unaddressed and to refer individuals to appropriate services. Over 15,000 refugee households were visited in the first two months of the year. Out of those, just over one third are in need of cash assistance to meet their daily needs. To date, approximately 6 per cent of refugee households have received a monthly grant of 175 dollars to assist them in covering their most immediate needs.
The Minister of Education and Higher Education (MOEH) has assumed full responsibility for the enrolment of refugee children in public schools this academic year. Education partners have been working with the Ministry to ensure enrolment as per the Reaching All Children through Education (RACE) programme. A delay in enrolment during the transition phase resulted in a four-month late start of the second shift. Nonetheless, currently 106,000 children in public schools in either the first or second shift.
A total of 200,000 primary health care consultations, including 5,000 women receiving antenatal care, have been supported by health sector partners. The antenatal care coverage remains relatively low and partners are working on strategies to increase awareness among pregnant women to seek preventive medical care.
For the second month in a row, due to funding shortages, refugees benefitting from food support received 19 dollars instead of the initially planned 27 dollars. The impact of this is being closely monitored and results on the nutritional status of refugees are expected to come by the end of March. WFP is undertaking a validation exercise to verify that active e-cards are still owned by the right households and to provide refresher training on the e-card programme policy.
As part of the effort to improve the quality of services provided to refugees, UNHCR and the Ministry of Social Affairs organized structured discussions with 1,200 refugees (separate ones per age, gender and specific needs). The consultations confirmed increased trends in child labor and early marriage. Refugees also indicated becoming increasingly isolated and restricted in their movements, due to curfews and lack of legal documents. A sense of anxiety and worry was prominent particularly among youth, who reported security concerns and fear of harassment. The results of the consultations will feed into redirecting some activities to directly address these concerns.