Mediterranean Basin Weekly Review - 20 March 2012

from NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre
Published on 20 Mar 2012

This document provides an overview of developments in the Mediterranean Basin and other regions of interest from 13 March—19 March, with hyperlinks to source material highlighted and underlined in the text. For more information on the topics below or other issues pertaining to the region, please contact the members of the Med Basin Team, or visit our website at


In Focus
HoA: Land & Sea
North Africa
Northeast Africa

In Focus: Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

By Amber Ramsey

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is now reporting that the number of registered Syrian refugees has reached 34,000. As the number of Syrians seeking shelter in neighbouring countries grows, some groups are concerned that past regional tensions will be ag-gravated and violence and insecurity might erupt. An August 2011 report by the Jamestown Foun-dation notes that Lebanon, in particular, is vulnerable to a spill-over of violence and instability from Syria as a result of the sectarian divide within the country. According to the report, Lebanon has been home to a vibrant Syrian community for many years, with between 500,000 and 600,000 Syrian migrant workers already settled in the country. Similarly, Syria has a history of hosting Lebanese refugees during years of civil strife and following the Israeli bombing of Lebanon in 2006. Recently, with the uprising in Syria and predominately Sunni refugees fleeing over the bor-der into Lebanon, concerns over a resurgence of sectarian violence are rife.

Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, Lebanon has seen its own share of demonstrations in support of and against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Syr-ian opposition largely comprises Sunni Muslims, who are fighting against the ruling Alawite mi-nority, headed by President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians fleeing violence in their country have been hosted by Lebanese communities near the shared border with Syria situated along the north-east border of Lebanon; others have sought refuge in the large urban cities of Tripoli and Beirut. Five thousand unregistered individuals that have fled Syria over the past year are believed to be living in Lebanon on the hospitality of local communities, while nearly 8,000 Syrians have been registered with UNHCR and the Lebanese authorities. According to an assessment of the humani-tarian situation of refugees in Lebanon conducted by Islamic Relief, many Syrians fear that regis-tering with UNHCR and the government’s Higher Relief Commission (HRC) would expose them to danger if the Lebanese government, which is aligned with the Assad regime, shares their information with the Syrian authorities. As a result, many Syrians have chosen to forego registering with UNHCR to receive much-needed humanitarian assistance.