Vulnerability Assessment of Refugees of other Nationalities in Lebanon 2017
UNHCR is pleased to present the Vulnerability Assessment of Refugees of Other Nationalities (VARON 2017), a report on the refugees and asylum seekers from countries other than Syria living in Lebanon. The influx of well over a million refugees from Syria since 2012 has partly overshadowed the plight of other refugee communities, many of whom have been living in Lebanon since before the Syrian crisis. This report aims to shed light on their situation, from their access to healthcare and education, to their economic vulnerability and food insecurity.
At the end of 2016, there were 21,761 registered refugees and asylum seekers from countries other than Syria in Lebanon.* Iraqis make up the largest share of this caseload (86%), arriving mostly in 2014 and 2015. The remaining refugees and asylum seekers are primarily from Sudan (9%), but also—in order by share--from Ethiopia, Egypt, Eritrea and elsewhere; this report will refer to the latter group as ‘refugees of Other Nationalities‘. New asylum seekers continue to approach UNHCR seeking international protection; indeed, 1,084 refugees and asylum seekers from countries other than Syria registered with UNHCR in Lebanon during the first half of 2017, 657 of whom were Iraqi.
The VARON 2017 is intended to be a key tool for shaping planning decisions and programme design in response to the specific needs and priorities of this refugee group.
The demographics of refugee and asylum seeker households living in Lebanon vary widely. Iraqis tend to live in family units of three to four people, while most households of refugees of Other Nationalities are single men and women. Men were slightly more prevalent than women in both groups.
While levels of vulnerability among refugee and asylum seeker households remained high, results showed that households of refugees of Other Nationalities were even more vulnerable on many indicators. Femaleheaded households, which make up around 15% of the total, fared worse than their male counterparts on nearly every indicator of vulnerability. They lived in worse shelter conditions, were more food insecure and more economically vulnerable.
Less than one in six surveyed individuals over 15 years old reported having legal residency (13%).
The share of households in which no member had a residency permit grew steeply from 30% last year to 80% this year, indicating that either those holding residency last year did not renew it or newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers had not yet secured residency. Results indicate that this is largely due to renewal costs. Not having legal residency puts refugees at risk of arrest and detention, and therefore limits their freedom of movement in the country.
An alarming 87% of the surveyed refugee population experienced some degree of food insecurity. While most households are eating an adequate quantity and variety of food, the coping strategies they are adopting in order to do so are concerning. Most households reported reducing expenditure on essential non-food expenses like healthcare and education in order to cope with a lack of money to buy food. WFP does not provide cash for food assistance to refugees from countries other than Syria and UNHCR stopped providing food assistance to this group in March 2017 due to lack of funds. The level of food insecurity has not significantly deteriorated since 2016, when 85% of the surveyed population experienced some degree of food insecurity.
Levels of debt remained high, with over half of households borrowing money in the past 30 days.
Expenditure per capita was US$ 227 per month, most of which was spent on rent (38%) and food (30%). Expenditure exceeded income by US$ 85 per capita on average. One third of households reported no income from labour at all, instead relying on debt or remittances.
Shelter conditions remained inadequate for many. Refugees of Other Nationalities were particularly at risk, with over a quarter living in shelters that were overcrowded, dangerous or in urgent need of repair (27%, compared to 12% for Iraqi households). Lack of formal rental agreements continues to put tenants at increased risk of exploitation or eviction. Of those renting their accommodation, only 20% had a formal agreement with their landlord, with most having informal agreements and 12% reported no agreement at all. Single women and female-headed households were at highest risk of having no rental agreement (27% and 23% respectively).
One in four households reported not having sufficient access to drinking water. One in four households also reported not having access to a bathroom for washing. For both indicators, refugees of Other Nationalities were worse off than their Iraqi counterparts, and female-headed households worse off than their male counterparts.
School attendance has improved but remains suboptimal. Among the surveyed children of primary school age (6 to 14 years), around a quarter were not attending school (23%), and two-thirds of secondary school age children (15 to 17 years) were not in school (67%). This appears to have improved since 2016, when the VARON found 36% of primary and 73% of secondary school age children were out of school. Nearly half the respondents cited the costs associated with education as the reason for non-attendance – likely transport and materials, since public education is covered for all refugees by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE). Children of Other Nationalities had better attendance rates than Iraqi children at each stage of education.
Results show a clear correlation between bad shelter conditions and poor health. For instance, the percentage of individuals reporting temporary illnesses was double among those living in conditions recorded as inadequate or ‘overcrowded’ (less than 4.5m2 per person). Drawing conclusions about cause and effect is difficult. Socio-economic vulnerability also correlates with poor shelter conditions, and therefore families may lack money to spend on either health or shelter. Households with members suffering from diseases and illnesses devote a higher percentage of their expenditure to health costs than those without health issues (10% and 5% respectively).
The cost of treatment continues to prevent those needing healthcare from accessing it. While 63% of households required either primary or secondary healthcare in the previous six months, two out of every five households were unable to access the care they needed, largely due to cost.
Refugee–host community relations were mixed and continue to be more difficult for refugees of Other Nationalities. Twenty per cent of households of refugees of Other Nationalities and 9% of Iraqi households reported facing verbal harassment. Those interacting daily or regularly with the host community generally enjoyed better relations: 98% of this group reported positive or very positive interactions, compared to 11% of those who interacted rarely or never.