Ibrahim Awad: Refugees in the Euro-Mediterranean Space: Issues in International Cooperation in Burden-sharing 

The current Syrian refugee crisis has brought out the necessity of international cooperation in facing up to refugee problems. In practice, however, this cooperation has proven insufficient. Among the main reasons is the absence of clear criteria for burden-sharing. 

The Preamble of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees emphasizes the importance of international cooperation for the solution of refugee problems. The need for this cooperation cannot be sufficiently emphasized in respect of developing host countries. In the case of the current Syrian refugee crisis, countries of first refuge, such as Jordan and Lebanon, cannot on their own, meet their protection and livelihood duties. Their economies and finances cannot provide for their own nationals, let alone for refugees who have come to represent 25 per cent of the population in Lebanon. Their labor markets are incapable of absorbing workers among the refugees. For these economic reasons in addition to political factors related their sensitive demographic balances, Local integration in the two countries is not an option.

Obviously neither is voluntary repatriation. International cooperation, therefore, is indispensable for facing up to the Syrian refugee situation in a way that could guarantee the rights of refugees to protection and decent livelihoods, while also national and regional stabilities.

International cooperation may also be considered in the best interest of industrialized, donor, countries, including specifically the European Union (EU) Member States. It diminishes unexpected population movements to their territories. It also allows them to plan in advance and formulate policies on reception, treatment of asylum applications and hosting of refugees. 

International cooperation takes the form of financial and technical assistance and of resettlement opportunities for refugees from their first countries of refuge. Resettlement along with local integration and voluntary repatriation are the three types of durable solutions envisaged by the 1951 convention. In 2015, in its proposals to defuse the refugee crisis, the European Commission (EC) added to classical types of durable solutions other categories of admission such as for humanitarian reasons and private sponsorships. The EU and Member States have provided financial assistance directly to countries of first refuge or through international organizations. Civil society organizations (CSOs) from Member Sates engaged in field work with refugees and provided technical assistance. Before the proposals of the EC, Member States had offered resettlement opportunities. Clearly, this international cooperation added to that of other countries was not sufficient to keep refugees from seeking better protection, livelihoods and places to resettle in precisely Member States of the EU. The movements of refugees brought home the validity of the identification by the EU of the Arab Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries as falling in its “neighborhood”.

But the Syrian crisis was also the occasion of innovating in international cooperation in facing up to refugee situations. The agreement between the EU and Turkey is such innovation. In broad lines, according to the agreement, Turkey committed to stem the flows of refugees to EU Member States in return for financial assistance of six billion euros. The agreement also provided for the exchange of every one refugee staying in Turkey for one irregular migrant having reached territories of the EU. In other words, Turkey committed to the readmission of refugees having irregularly left its territory to one of the EU Member States. The conformity of this agreement to international law needs to be analyzed. Its implementation and consequences are  also to be followed and evaluated.

Finally, most importantly, giving concrete substance to the principle of international cooperation is now more necessary than ever before. At present, there are no criteria for sharing burdens for hosting refugees with countries of first refuge. It may be doubtful that binding criteria will soon be accepted. However, discussions and guidelines may prove useful for the situation of Syrian refugee and others that may arise in the future.

Martin Beck: Flexible response? On the Lebanese “refugee crisis” 

The since 2011 ongoing Syrian civil war has caused an unprecedented influx of refugees to Lebanon. 1.2 million Syrians have been officially registered as refugees with the UNHCR, yet some observers estimate that up to 2 million Syrians fled to Lebanon, a country with a population of roughly 4 million people only. Whatsoever the exact figure is, the ratio of domestic Lebanese population to Syrian refugees is extreme, if compared to the recent influx of refugees to member states of the European Union. 

In this context, it is remarkable that—in comparison to the European scenery—the refugee influx into Lebanon has for long not been securitized, even hardly politicized. It only got politicized in mid/end-2013 and thereafter securitized by various players of the Lebanese political parties in early/mid 2014, thus in a period in which the amount of registered Syrian refugees was already reaching and then quickly passing the threshold of one million people. Even then the degree of securitization was more moderate than in Europe, particularly on the societal level, and remained on a relatively low level up to the present date. Although the amount of Syrian refugees remained above one million throughout the year 2015, a purely domestic issue—the garbage crisis—ranked highest on the social agenda.

Against this background, the present analysis aims at tackling the question how the State of Lebanon and how its society coped with the refugee influx. As the State of Lebanon is normally portrayed as one with rather low capabilities in terms of “crisis management:” Why did Lebanon not fail to absorb the refugee influx? Why did the Lebanese social system, which is often characterized as highly sensitive to shifts in the composition of its religious affiliations, not get disequilibrated? Furthermore, why did Lebanese political and social actors refrain for quite a long period to construct the refugee influx as a “refugee crisis”? Why is securitization of the refugee influx in Lebanon up to date still significantly less pronounced than in Europe? 

The general thesis which the present analysis is based on is that crucial features of the Lebanese state and society, which are often portrayed as deficient, proved to be suitable for the “management” of the refugee influx insofar as the Lebanese system could respond in a rather flexible way. More specifically, mainly three theses are critically discussed: Firstly, the Lebanese political system with its “ill-defined” conceptualization of sovereignty converted its weakness in terms of management capabilities into strength by leaving the “management” of the refugee influx to a high degree to international organizations, particularly the UNHCR. Secondly, major parts of the Lebanese society, which is characterized by “blurred” lines of national identity, developed an immigrant-friendly culture toward Syrian refugees. Particularly on the side of Shia and Hezbollah, this culture was also nourished by a cooperative attitude of reciprocity (based on shelter provision by Syrians in the summer war 2006). Thirdly, due to the high degree of informality of the socio-economic system of Lebanon, the economy benefitted from the influx of labor, particularly in the low-wage segments of the economy.

Tamirace Fakhoury: Lebanon’s governance of the Syrian refugee crisis: drivers and consequences 

In light of  forcible displacements from Syria, the theme of refugee sharing has evolved into a highly contentious issue. Syria’s direct neighbours and selected European states such as Germany and Sweden have adopted a politics of hospitality. Others such as Hungary and Slovakia have been adamant about restricting refugee influx across their borders, shining a light on the extent to which  incomers upset social cohesion and drain the polity’s resources. 

This contentious debate is however not restricted to governments and policy making. Political theorists have been divided over the state’s obligations towards the other and particularly over responsibility sharing in case of forced displacements. Some privilege a framework of shared interconnectedness linking individuals irrespective of the nation-state container. Others argue that the state ought to prioritize its social contract towards its own citizens before welcoming refugees.  A metapher illustrating states’ prioritization of special versus universal obligations is the “lifeboat ethics”; a state should take in refugees insofar as the boat’s equilibrium is not upset. 

In the wake of Syria’s crackdown on its 2011 uprising, Lebanon, a multi-sectarian country of 4,5 million inhabitants, has welcomed more than 1, 200, 000 Syrian refugees, becoming the country with the highest refugee density in the world. Lebanon’s politics of hospitality has spurred mixed reactions. On the one hand, the international community has praised the country’s ‘generosity’ and ‘social resilience’. On the other, experts have questioned the shortsightedness of Lebanon’s refugee policy, which consists in the absence of policy. Lebanon is not a signatory state to the 1951 Geneva convention. Though it has opened its borders to displaced Syrians, policy and legal instruments aiming at refugee governance and protection have lacked a rights-based approach. 

This article discusses how the Lebanese state has responded to the forced displacements from Syria. More specifically, it looks at the underlying factors that have prompted Lebanon to host so many Syrian refugees when its own infrastructure, welfare policies, and management of public goods  are highly dysfunctional. The paper argues that there is more to Lebanon’s policy towards the Syrian refugee crisis than a simple mix of state vulnerability and hospitality. Rather a myriad of factors is to be factored in. 

Lebanon’s historical ties with Syria and fragile geopolitical position partly explain its policy of reception.  External variables linked to the international community’s outsourcing of refugee distribution in first asylum countries weigh in. Furthermore, Lebanon’s politics of sectarian power-sharing, which seeks to manage loyalties, safeguard interests and apportion resources, arises as a key explanatory framework underlying refugee governance. In this context,  rather than being a helpless actor vis a vis the refugee surge, the state draws on the card of Syrian displacement as an item of state leverage in Lebanon’s regional and international relations and as an alibi to perpetuate the politics of institutional vaccuum. For instance, the state uses the card of the Syrian displaced to outsource some of its governance functions, shifting focus from statehood to the civic sphere and the international community.

While the article seeks to position Lebanon in the debate on how a weak state negotiates its obligations towards the other, it illustrates how the absence of a formal refugee regime has allowed for an alternative mechanism of governance. In this alternative mechanism, the state copes and gains resilience through delegating refugee protection to the civic sphere and the international community. 

Gabrielle Sennett & Dr Hasan Almomani: Syrian Refugees and Jordan’s Deeply Rooted Water Problem

There are so many drivers behind the current trend of change at the global level including climate change and demography. Moreover, the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global Risk Report ranked “failure to adapt to climate change” and “involuntary migration” as the top issues facing the international community. These represent imminent conflicts that stem from societal1 and environmental problems, two of the five broader categories they assert present threats in a variety of ways to the international community. Another assertion made by scholars studying the potential impact of emerging global risks, is that problems like climate change, mass migration, interstate conflicts, etc. are becoming increasingly more interconnected issues. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan serves as a crossroads for these issues coming to fruition. According to the Water Risk Institute, Jordan is one of the most at risk countries regarding water scarcity. With refugees accounting for approximately 36 percent of the Jordanian population and growing, this research seeks to analyze the impact refugees have on Jordan’s ability to combat the national water scarcity issue. While many Syrians express frustration over Jordan’s restrictive policies towards water distribution2, statistically Jordanian nationals express the most concern over water scarcity in the country. According to a UNHCR report, 66 percent of Jordanians feel dissatisfied with water management in their communities as opposed to 55 percent of Syrian nationals living in Jordan. Furthermore, more Syrians than Jordanians thought there was adequate access to reliable water.3 Is it possible that Jordanian nationals could be bearing the brunt of the water scarcity crisis in the country? This could imply that the refugee crisis therefore doesn't just put more stress on the Jordanian water sector by increasing the number of people in need of the scarce resource. Perhaps it is increasing demand exponentially as the water per capita intake increases, as well. Given its geographic location, Jordan has historically carried the 4 burden of a hefty refugee population. This analysis focuses specifically on the population difference between 2010 and 2014, which would better account for the particular influx of Syrian refugees since the outbreak of civil war in 2011. I hypothesized that an unexpected influx in refugees leads to less efficient and environmentally conscious water distribution practices. Through a statistical analysis of the water per capita intake and a breakdown of the refugee population in Jordan, we can gain a more thorough understanding of a refugees’ impact on water demand in the country.

1 "Global Risks Landscape Report 2016." The World Economic Forum. 2016. Accessed March 25, 2016.

2 Serrato, Bryant Castro. "Refugee Perceptions Study." OXFAM Research Reports. June 2014. Accessed April 3, 2016.

Access to Water and Tensions in Jordanian Communities Hosting Syrian Refugees . Report. REACH: Thematic Assessment Report. Amman: British Embassy Amman, 2014. Accessed April 3, 2016.

4 Charterland, Geraldine. "Jordan: A Refugee Haven." August 31, 2010. Accessed April 04, 2016.

Peter Seeberg: Migration, Diplomacy and Regional Influence. The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Turkish-European Relations

 According to UNHCR by March 2016 Turkey hosted 2,715,789 registered Syrian refugees. The situation in Turkey is part of a larger migration crisis in the Mediterranean, which includes significant numbers of refugees and migrants from other parts of the Middle East, and from Asia and Africa – many of whom attempt to reach Europe. The EU is recently experiencing strong internal disagreements, which partly is a result of controversies between the member states related to refugees and migrants arriving in Europe. In connection with that the complex relationships between Turkey, the EU and the Middle East have been exposed to challenges, and negotiations between Turkey and the EU concerning the refugee crisis seem directly and indirectly to affect the position of Turkey in the conflict regions of the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East – and even the status of the accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU.

For decades, inspired by the work of Buzan and Wæver (Regions and Powers. The Structure of International Security), a discussion of how to interpret the role of Turkey in the Mediterranean region has been ongoing, asking if Turkey is to be defined as an insulator state or maybe as a state on the way to gain status as a regional great power (see for instance Diez, Barrinha, Günay, Robins, Wood)? This paper attempts to show how the refugee crisis tends to influence this discussion, not least as a result of the European preoccupation with security aspects of migration, and argues that the significance of the recent Syrian crisis and in particular the refugee situation endow Turkey with a position as a state, which, rather than an insulator state between regional security complexes should be analyzed as a pole in the involved regional security complexes. 

First of all the Syrian refugee crisis on many different levels challenges not only recent regional and international politics, but also the international refugee regime and our understanding of the MENA-region. Secondly the refugees and migration phenomenon over the last decade has experienced an elevation from a status as an important non-traditional security issue to a position as one of the most significant themes in “high politics”. Thirdly the complex reality in which Turkey is becoming a main actor tends to establish a security interdependence between the EU and Turkey, which seem to reactivate discussions about Turkish membership of the EU. Fourthly this interdependence implies leverage for Turkey in the regions to the east and south, which adds to the strengthening of Turkey as a regional power. Fifthly the regional and international perspectives of the part played by Turkey in the context of the ongoing Syrian crisis in a broader sense contribute to justify a relabeling of Turkey as a pole in the relevant regional security complexes.


Gerasimos Tsourapas: Population Mobility & Cross-Regime Competition: Tracing the Political Importance of Egyptian Migration under Mohamed Morsi

How does the presence of emigrant communities abroad affects the durability of a ruling regime? So far, the political effects of population mobility have mainly been studied through a comparative politics lens, highlighting issues such as ‘brain drain,’ economic remittances, or the broader developmental effects of emigration.

This paper is driven by the argument that emigration also affects a ruling regime’s relations with other regimes within a regional subsystem - such as that of the Middle East - in two ways, by promoting collaboration or competition. It focuses on the latter, and initially analyses how Egyptian migration has historically impacted upon processes of competition between Egypt, Libya, and Iraq. It proceeds to focus on the Morsi period, between June 2012 and July 2013, in order to demonstrate how Egyptian migration functioned as cross-regime instrument of competition by Libya, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Using primarily media sources in Arabic, it demonstrates how host states exploited the existence of large Egyptian communities within their borders in order to induce political and economic concessions by the Morsi government. Ultimately, the paper aims to make a broader argument that moves beyond economics and examines the political repercussions of intra-Arab migration for sending states’ regimes.

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