Lebanon has long hosted refugee populations. In 1948 Palestinians began arriving fleeing violence due to the formation of the Israeli state. The Syrian refugee crisis has resulted in yet another wave of refugees into Lebanon. Due to the unprecedented scale of the displacement, the Syrian refugee crisis has captured international attention. Yet, this has been at the expense of other crises and vulnerable populations.
Tara Nathan, Executive Vice President for Government and Development at Mastercard, has published an interesting short piece on the World Economic Forum website. She joins the current new thinking supporting refugee self-reliance that benefits both refugees and hosting communities. In Nathan’s words: “A new model must create communities in which the forcibly displaced can become self-sufficient faster and can contribute to the economic growth of their host communities.”
Since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, its neighbor Lebanon quickly became the country that hosts the highest number of refugee per capita; today one in four is a refugee. Initially, Lebanon had an open-border with Syria. Between 2013 and 2014, UNHCR registered on average over 48,000 refugees per month. Despite the massive influx, Lebanon did not create refugee camps for Syrians.
Last year, the Kenyan government announced that it would close Dadaab refugee camp, repatriate Somali refugees, and disband the Department of Refugees. On February 9, 2017, a decision of the High Court in Nairobi invalidated the government’s planned course of action. The court held that return of Somali refugees would violate the 1951 Refugee Convention’s norm of non-refoulement and constitute discrimination prohibited by the Kenyan Constitution. The failure to consider individual cases under prevailing law was deemed to violate the Kenyan Fair Administrative Action Act. Further, the court held that the government lacked authority to close the Department of Refugees, which would require legislation enacted by the Parliament.
The Australian government has been criticized for a raft of its asylum seeker policies, perhaps the most notorious of which is its removal of “unlawful non-citizens” to two offshore processing centers—one in Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and the other in the Republic of Nauru—and the protracted detention of asylum seekers in those facilities. This is an ongoing human rights concern. Notwithstanding the government’s announcement late last year that it would settle some of these detainees in the United States, the Prime Minister has said that that arrangement is a “one-off”; it will not be repeated. The Immigration Minister has stated that the offshore detention policy will not change and that Nauru, at least, “will remain in its current status forever”. In any event, the fate of the US-Australia deal is anything but certain, after President Trump blasted it as the “worst deal ever”.