Taal document

Datum

18 apr 2016

Documentsoort

Rapporten

Trefwoord

Seksuele uitbuiting
Arbeidsuitbuiting
Vluchtelingen
Gedwongen prostitutie
Kindbruid
Kindhuwelijk
Syrië
labour exploitation
Sexual exploitation

Organisatie

The Freedom Fund

Struggling to survive: slavery and exploitation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Datum

18 apr 2016

Executive summary

Since it began in 2011, the conflict in Syria has devastated the lives of millions of men, women and children. Fearing violence and persecution, families have fled their homes to seek safety in other countries in the region and around the globe. Many crossed the border into neighbouring Lebanon. Few would have expected to find themselves forced into slavery.

While there are a large number of organisations in Lebanon providing services and support to Syrian refugees, including Palestinian Syrians, efforts to curb the growing incidence of slavery and human trafficking are often uncoordinated, limited in their focus and do not always target those most at risk.

This report sets out a pathway to deliver tangible and lasting change. It examines the different ways in which slavery is occurring among Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the multiple factors that combine to force people into situations of slavery. Addressing these risk factors will require the commitment of a broad range of stakeholders, including the Lebanese government, international governments, international organisations, NGOs and donors. Lebanon, which borders Syria to the west, has been at the front line in responding to the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded over the past five years. Given the extensive social, economic and historical ties between the countries, the Lebanese government initially operated an ‘open door’ policy for those fleeing the conflict. Today, one in five people in Lebanon is a refugee from Syria. With more than 1.2 million refugees living within its borders, no other country in the world hosts more refugees on a per capita basis. Such an influx has, however, placed significant stress on the country. As a consequence, the Lebanese government has taken steps to effectively close its borders and, in May 2015, instructed the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to stop registering new refugees from Syria. It has established a sponsorship system to limit the numbers arriving from Syria and has imposed stringent residency renewal regulations. This has left Syrian refugees open to detention and deportation for entering, working and staying in Lebanon without the correct paperwork. These policies have simply exacerbated an already dire humanitarian crisis for Syrian refugees, many of whom live in abject poverty. With no opportunity to work legally, and with children unable to go to school, refugees are forced into desperate situations to simply survive. Syrian refugees often find themselves working in hard, dangerous or exploitative jobs for little or no money. However, with the ever-present risk of detection and deportation, families are increasingly sending their children out to work, as they can pass more freely through the security check points operated by Lebanese authorities. Our study found that slavery of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is a rapidly growing concern, which manifests in the following ways:

Child labour has increased significantly in Lebanon since the start of the conflict in Syria. One leading NGO estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of Syrian refugee children are working, with child labour rates even higher in the Bekaa Valley. There is strong demand among Lebanese employers for child workers and many are pressed into the worst forms of child labour.

• Syrian refugee girls are increasingly forced into early marriages, especially in Bekaa Valley, Akkar (north Lebanon). While the family’s decision is commonly made to secure the girl’s economic future, there is a genuine risk that entering a marriage at such a vulnerable age could result in slavery.

• Evidence strongly suggests that ‘survival sex’ and sexual exploitation is a growing issue for Syrian and Palestinian Syrian female refugees. Women can be forced or coerced into prostitution or providing ‘sexual favours’ to order to provide food and shelter for their families.

Forced labour is increasingly common as Syrian refugees become more desperate, so much so that it may even constitute the ‘new norm’. With surging prices for food and rent, coupled with the heavy costs associated with residency renewals, refugee families can quickly fall into debt. This leaves them even more vulnerable to exploitation.

Despite highly sensational media coverage, we did not find any evidence of organ trafficking. Further, despite several high profile arrests by Lebanese authorities, our study did not find evidence of the facilitation of Syrian refugees across the border into Lebanon for the purpose of exploitation. Slavery and human trafficking should never be condoned or accepted as ‘the norm’. However, unless we act decisively, this is the grave risk facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Without  ignificant and determined intervention, the situation will only worsen. This report provides a set of targeted and integrated recommendations to counter slavery and human trafficking of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The starting point is to ensure that Syrians fleeing conflict and persecution are properly recognised in Lebanon as refugees, that they can legally work and their children can go to school. It is also vital that tackling slavery and human trafficking is a shared priority among every organisation with a responsibility to assist Syrian refugees in the country. There is a paucity of data currently being collected to document slavery and trafficking of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It is imperative that we improve data collection systems so that reliable information is available to guide the  evelopment of effective interventions. By taking concerted steps to address the factors that contribute to slavery and human trafficking, Lebanon will be better placed to manage the prolonged humanitarian crisis. It will also develop institutions, laws and policies that are more closely aligned with international human rights standards. This will deliver benefits for everyone within its borders and make it an example to other countries responding to the current refugee crisis.