1,192,280 Syrian refugees
The new regulations which entered into force at the beginning of the year, continued to impact on refugees in Lebanon. Admission to Lebanon for Syrian nationals is restricted to those who can produce valid identity documents and proof that their stay in Lebanon fits into one of the approved reasons for entry. Seeking refuge in Lebanon is not an approved reason other than in exceptional circumstances.
The imposition of admission restrictions has resulted in a drop of monthly refugee registrations with UNHCR, which fell by close to 80% from a similar period in 2014.
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 mukhtar (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. As a result, there is growing insecurity and unease in refugee communities, as refugees are fearful of being arrested or detained because of lapsed residency visas
Enhanced security measures imposed throughout Lebanon, led to an increase in evictions at a higher rate than over the same period last year. Over 6,000 refugees had to secure other accommodation after having received eviction notices. A further 6,000 persons, who have received notices, have yet to find alternatives. Partners are working to assist the most vulnerable among those at risk.
In an effort to deepen understanding and improve interventions, protection and assistance partners expanded monthly home visits. Over 24,000 refugee households were visited in the first two months of the year. These visits enable partners to assess needs and ensure that person who have specific needs receive the assistance they need to the extent possible. The visits confirmed that over one third of households visited need income support to meet their daily needs, which exceeds the current support provided to less than 10% of refugee households.
Education partners worked alongside the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to support the Reaching All Children through Education (RACE) programme. A delay in enrolment during resulted in a four-month late start of the second shift. Nonetheless, currently 106,000 refugee children in public schools are currently enrolled in either the first or second shift. The Ministry has said that it will ensure that those whose enrolment were delayed will have an opportunity to catch up in the summer months. Further work is being done with the Ministry to roll out non formal education needed to reach the over 300,000 refugee children not in school.
Refugees continued to be able to access primary health care services with a total of 200,000 primary health care consultations supported in the first two months and updates underway for the remainder of the first quarter. Of this, 5,000 refugee women received antenatal care. 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 third month in a row, due to funding shortages, refugees benefitting from food support from the World Food Programme received USD 19 instead of the initially planned USD 27. The impact of this is being closely monitored and results of a recent nutritional status survey are being examined. In parallel, the World Food Programme is verifying that e-cards used to redeem food vouchers are still owned by the right households.
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 financial pressures on refugees leading to growing child labour and early marriage. Refugees also indicated becoming increasingly isolated and restricted in their movements, due to curfews and lack of residency documents, a growing concern given the many obstacles in obtaining them. A sense of anxiety and worry was prominent particularly among youth, who reported security concerns and fear of harassment.
Humanitarian partners wound up winter activities. While the tally of total persons assisted will be available in a few weeks’ time, figures for the first two months of the year reveal that close to 400,000 persons were assisted with blankets, winter clothing, fuel vouchers, stoves and temporary cash assistance. Over 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.
Over 400 refugee outreach volunteers and 130 youth committees were mobilized to organize themselves to help address some of their community needs.