Trajectories, settlements and narratives of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan
Imad Amer (Ifpo), Kamel Doraï (Ifpo), Anna Poujeau (Ifpo)
21th April 2021
03:00-05:00 Beirut time
02:00-04:00 Paris Time
01:00-03:00 London Time
Speaker : Dr. Faten Kikano, Collège de Rosemont-Canada (Centre d’études en responsabilité sociale et écocitoyenne – Cérsé)
Discussant : Kamel Doraï (Ifpo-CNRS-MEAE)
The freedom to settle, a poisoned gift: the case of Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Organized camps for Syrian refugees have been prohibited in Lebanon, a decision for which the international community praised the country. However, concurrently with their urban “inclusion”, the Lebanese state excluded Syrian refugees from institutional systems. More than 70% are deprived from a legal status. As a consequence, whether in urban or rural settings, refugee housing is based on informal rent agreements. Deprived from state protection and denied legal recourse, refugees are at the mercy of property owners and other actors, sometimes refugees themselves. In most cases, they pay excessive rent for precarious spaces in which they are constantly at risk of eviction. Similar predatory behaviors occur in their employment in the informal market.
Based on a recently submitted doctoral thesis, this presentation shows that, while Lebanon adopted a non-encampement policy to avoid consolidation of refugee spaces and permanence of their asylum, refugees’ institutional exclusion by the Lebanese state increased their vulnerability and prevented them from resettling or repatriating. Their freedom to settle proved to be a poisoned gift, a strategy that facilitates their exploitation and serves the interest of powerful private actors. We conclude that achieving spatial justice for refugees goes beyond the type of space — camp or no-camp — assigned for them. Settling refugees outside camps is often a worthless privilege if it is not combined with their inclusion in host state systems and their institutional, legal, and socioeconomic empowerment.
Bio: Faten Kikano is a researcher in the Cérsé, a research center specialized in social innovation and sustainable development. She holds a PhD from the faculty of environmental studies at Université de Montréal. Her research interests focus on understanding refugees’ agency in space utilization. She explores the role of government and non-government stakeholders and the impact of hosting policies on refugees’ institutional, economic, and social conditions and on the process of place-making in refugee spaces. Prior her career as a researcher, she has 20 years of experience as a practitioner in architecture and design and an instructor in the most prestigious universities in Lebanon.