Of all of Syria's neighbours, Lebanon has been the hardest hit by the exodus of Syrians fleeing their country’s violence. Lebanon has taken in 1.5 million Syrians and Palestine refugees from Syria, accounting for 30% of Lebanon's population—the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. Since the enforcement of stricter regulations applied by the Lebanese government in 2015, access to Lebanon by those fleeing the conflict in Syria has become close to impossible.
The refugee influx since the start of the Syria war in 2011 has added a major strain on Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure. Although Lebanon has shown remarkable generosity, increased competition for jobs and resources is fueling tensions between Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees.
Lebanon has banned the construction of formal camps for Syrian refugees, forcing refugees to live in substandard shelters like garages, warehouses, tents, unfinished buildings, and animal sheds. An increasing number of refugees lack proper documentation, restricting their free movement and access to basic services, as well as exposing them to greater risk of harassment and exploitation. Refugees also face serious restrictions in obtaining healthcare and have to pay for food, rent, clothes, medicines, and other necessities. Child labour remains a concern, with 4.8% of Syrian refugee children aged 5 to 17 reporting working (VASYR 2017: Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, UN, December 2017).
Violence and poor security along the Lebanon-Syria border, particularly in Akkar and the northern Bekaa Valley, make humanitarian access and the delivery of assistance challenging. The violence have also led to increasingly restrictive policies — including refugee evictions, police raids, mistreatment and restrictions of movement — heightening tensions between authorities and the refugees.
To date, the European Commission has provided €439 million in humanitarian funding for Lebanon to respond to the Syria crisis, with €85 million in 2017 only and €80 million will be provided in 2018. Since the beginning of the crisis, the humanitarian assistance has been aimed at refugees faced with dire levels of poverty, and who are living on the margins of society, often in substandard accommodation. The EU humanitarian response to Syrian refugees in Lebanon has for the most part been in the form of cash assistance to help people with basic necessities, and providing health care, shelter, water and sanitation. The EU also provides protection assistance for refugees faced with legal concerns or for Syrians who have suffered violence and harassment.
Considering the protracted nature of the crisis and the increasingly difficult living conditions refugees face in Lebanon, the EU Commission is increasing its focus on improving access to protection assistance and improved quality services, such as legal assistance, counseling and case management. The EU is also setting up an emergency “rapid response mechanism”, enabling the EU and its partners to quickly respond to sudden crises affecting refugees and the host communities. Furthermore, given the protracted nature of the Palestinian refugee crisis in Lebanon, other EU funding streams have continued to provide support to this population.