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Like Syria and Jordan, Lebanon has served as a host country for both Iraqi refugees and Palestinians. No stranger to upheaval itself, Lebanon has seen ongoing conflict of varying intensities for decades, while Syrian troops only withdrew from the country in 2005 after considerable disagreement among Lebanese. The two countries are also tied together by large populations of Syrian migrant workers, who go back and forth on a regular basis. Many Lebanese communities close to Syria depend upon this cross-border commerce and employment to survive.
Current Humanitarian Situation
As of July 2013, more than half a million Syrian refugees have registered in Lebanon. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners – including the Lebanese government – have been providing assistance with food, shelter and medical care, as most Syrians arrived with few resources and little money. Many of the refugees were received by Lebanese host families or supported by communities with strong ties to Syria and its people. But the conflict in Syria halted cross-border trade and employment, leaving the Lebanese with few resources to spare.
By the summer of 2012, these host communities had largely exhausted their ability to support more people, and Lebanese government funds for refugees had run dangerously low. Syrian refugees continue to arrive through Lebanon’s open border, and aid agencies and NGOs are struggling to meet their needs while supporting the host communities.
Iraqi refugees in Lebanon receive services from the UNHCR, but their long-term situation holds few prospects for self-sufficiency or safe return to Iraq. Refugees in Lebanon are not entitled to work permits, and have to compete with a large population of migrant workers even for illegal employment with sub-standard wages. Iraqis are also vulnerable to detention for being in the country without valid documentation. Iraqi refugees can be resettled out of Lebanon, but the process can be very slow.
Approximately 400,000 Palestinians remain in Lebanon in a dozen camps, some of which have existed for more than 50 years. The rights of Palestinians in Lebanon are limited, and the majority live In dismal living conditions in restricted areas. With little political or economic power, the residents of the camps remain heavily dependent upon humanitarian aid for survival.
About 850,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have fled the conflict in central Iraq to seek safety further north in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). They are scattered across the KRI in a variety of temporary housing situations: though a small number of them are in camps, most live informally in local schools, unfinished buildings, and public parks. Half a million of them are in the city of Dohuk alone. The great majority of these 850,000 internally displaced are members of religious minorities – Christians from the Ninewa Plains and Yazidis from the Sinjar area, in particular.