SYRIAN REFUGEES IN URUGUAY
Following step by step the Uruguayan project of welcoming 120 Syrian refugees from Lebanon to Uruguay
The Syrian Crisis
* Syria’s population prior to the 2011 crisis: total of 21.5 million people (with an even male-female ratio), of which 35.8% under 14 and 20.7% aged between 15 and 24, mostly urban (11.4 million people), though rural areas were still highly populated (9 million people).
* A varied ethnic and religious composition (Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Armenians among others), high level of localism, and historical economic, political and kinship ties with neighbouring states such as Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.
* A good annual average growth of total GDP between 2001 and 2010 (4.5 %), and the fairly high health indicators and education levels of Syria contrasted with a limited female inclusion, a weak GDP per capita, and an unequal wealth distribution. In addition, the forced rural exodus and harsh conditions for urban middle classes accentuated the overall feeling of discontent in the population. Finally the authoritarian regime made of Syria a country particularly prone to uprisings.
From UNDP - Trends in Syrian’s Arab Republic in Human Development Index component indices 1980-2012
CONFLICT BREAK OUT
* The Syrian uprising began in early 2011 with non-violent mass protests, and in the overall regional context of the Arab Spring. The regime violently repressed the demonstrations and by Autumn 2011 the conflict was militarised. Sunni defectors from the Government Army created the Free Syrian Army, which was later joined by civilians by early 2012.
* The radicalisation of the conflict coincided with the entrance of Islamist extremist military groups, coming also from abroad, in the conflict by the summer of 2012.
* Globally, the Syrian conflict created a geopolitical impasse among great political powers, which in turn affected the Security Council’s position and consequent decisions regarding the Syrian situation.
From Washington Post 2014- Trends in Syrian’s Arab Republic in Human Development Index component indices 1980-2012
10.8 million of people are estimated to be in need inside Syria by United Nations
6.5 millions of Syrians Internally Displaced
IMPACT OF CONFLICT ON POPULATION AND HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION
* From the first protests to the open armed conflict, the Syrian crisis is theatre to grave human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law. Excessive use of force, extrajudicial and summary executions, detentions with systematic torture, deprivation of food and water, rape and other forms of sexual violence against men, women, and children, are among the violations reported as perpetrated by both the Government and opposition forces.
* Restriction of movements for civilians, denial of medical assistance, torture and killing of health personnel are other specific features of the Syrian conflict. In addition, for bombardments destroy medical facilities, war surgery and medical emergency have become humanitarian priorities. Deliberate attacks reached their pinnacle point by August 2013, when chemical weapons were used, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more.
* Due to the government’s authoritarian approach towards external interventions, humanitarian aid was extremely difficult to provide from the very beginning of the crisis. Indeed, the Syrian government imposed restrictions on medical humanitarian aid directed to opposition areas, and in doing so it denied the right to medical care for both civilians and combatants. This practice is against international humanitarian law.
From Inter-Agency Regional Response for Syrian Refugees Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey 20-26 July 2014
DISPLACEMENT AND IMPOVERISHMENT
* The Syrian conflict created one of the biggest population displacement of contemporary conflicts. Displacements have been not only the result of civilians’ decision to look for a safer place to survive, but they also were imposed by both government and opposition forces as part of their military strategies. Forced isolation of populations in remote locations was also observed as means to control territories. As a result, civilians have been obligated to relocate several times, for a single move often was not enough to ensure their safety. Since 2011, nine million Syrians had to leave their homes; by March 2014, there were 6.52 million people displaced inside Syria (Internally Displaced People – IDP), and 2.58 million living as refugees in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
* The amount of refugees impressively increased during 2013: from about 506.000 refugees at the beginning of 2013, to more than two and half million people registered as refugees in March 2014. Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan received the vast majority of Syrian refugees.
* The violence of armed conflicts has devastating economic, social and political impacts in Syria, with half of the population living in poverty or outside the country. Social and economic infrastructures, livelihood, health and education systems have been almost completely destroyed, throwing Syria, which before the conflict was a middle income economy, to the development it had 30 years ago.
THE LEBANESE SITUATION
*The first flux of Syrian refugees to Lebanon started in 2011, at the beginning of the crisis. Nowadays, Lebanon hosts more than 1.000.000 refugees: this represents the biggest refugees presence in a neighbouring country.
*The primary responsibility of providing refugees with humanitarian assistance falls to national authorities. As such, in late 2012 Lebanon constituted an inter-ministerial committee to respond to the refugees flux coming from Syria. The Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for the coordination of the Government’s action.
*Experiencing the difficulties of the over-crowded Palestinian refugee camps already present in Lebanon, the country prohibited refugee camps to host Syrian refugees. Syrians refugees are allowed to settle wherever they choose, be it rural or urban areas. Many of them rented houses from Lebanese families, which created an important increase in urban rentals. In addition, in some instances Lebanese owners started to take advantage of their position of superiority and cases of gender violence were detected. The less lucky refugees settled in public buildings or informal shelters, exposing them to situations of extreme vulnerability.
*The competition for resources and pressure on the already poor Lebanese infrastructure represent financial, logistic, and demographic challenges for Lebanon. The lack of job opportunities for Syrian refugees (many of which used to be part of the upper-middle class in Syria) disintegrates families’ unity, and domestic violence appears to have largely increased.
*Although the Lebanese Government encourages the children of Syrian refugees to attend local schools, the various difficulties mentioned earlier impede many from doing so, and only 25% are sent to school.
From UNHCR - Registration Trends for Syrians in Lebanon Statistics as of 24 July 2014
Syrian refugees in Uruguay – Background consideration and the importance of a gender approach
Summary: Uruguay has been one of the first countries to respond to the call of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to address Syrian refugees’ needs. The Uruguayan government announced that 120 Syrian refugees would be welcomed starting in September 2014.
Lebanon: At Least 45 Local Curfews Imposed on Syrian Refugees
Some Appear to Be Retaliation for August Clashes, Executions
Lebanese municipalities have increasingly imposed curfews on Syrian refugees. The curfews restrict refugees’ movements and contribute to a climate of discriminatory and retaliatory practices against them. Human Rights Watch has identified at least 45 municipalities across the country that have imposed such curfews.
What’s at the Heart of Lebanon’s Troubles?
Lebanon has so far avoided an economic and security collapse since the start of the Syrian crisis, but major threats remain.
Background consideration and the importance of a gender approach