Field note: Civil Society Organizations in the Refugee Reception in Gaziantep and Izmir

Yasemin Kalaylıoğlu, PhD

November, 2017



This report focuses on the field research conducted in two cities of Turkey, Gaziantep and Izmir, in the framework of the project of “ANR-LAJEH Reflections on the categories and genealogy of migration in the Middle East” which is financed by National Research Agency of France (Agence National de Recherche). The objective of the field study is to comprehend the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) and their basic services in order to analyze the refugee reception in Turkey. In this respect, the research focused on CSOs in two significant cities which are providing services for the asylum seekers and refugees, in the aftermath of the armed conflict in Syria.

Turkey has been one of the main refuges for millions of Syrians. Statistics indicate that as of November 2017, 3.303.113 Syrians[1] (under temporary protection status) and 66.167 non-Syrians[2] (including Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians Somalians and other groups, under international protection status) are currently registered in the system of Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), under the Ministry of Interior. However, it is estimated that the actual figures of foreigners in the country are higher when the unregistered population is also considered. Table.1 below displays the distribution of Syrian refugees under temporary protection in Turkey.

The reason for selecting Gaziantep and Izmir stems from the main characteristics of these cities regarding temporary protection. Gaziantep, to begin with, is located in the South-Eastern part of Turkey and very close to the Syrian border which turned into a migration hub both for Syrians and international NGOs in the last couple of years. Izmir, on the other hand, is located on the West coast of the country and seen as one of the exit points for irregular migrants who are willing to continue to the Greek Islands in order to reach EU borders by risking their lives on rickety boats across the Mediterranean. In this respect, these cities provide critical information for the project. In late October 2017, more than twenty interviews were conducted with the representatives of various CSOs in Gaziantep and Izmir where brief field notes are stated in this report.

Findings of the field research in Gaziantep

Gaziantep is a metropolitan city which has a population of 1.974.244 in 2017. According to the statistics of DGMM, 12.421 residence permits are issued as of November 2017[3]. However, according to the local CSOs, it is estimated that more than 400.000 Syrians and non-Syrians (mostly Afghans and Iraqis) are living under the category of international and temporary protection, in which “registered Syrians” i.e. Syrians under temporary protection status constitute the majority of this population with 344.022 people[4]. To put it differently, the number of registered Syrians forms %17.43 of the whole population of the city. Congruent with the high density of refugee population, there is a dynamic atmosphere in Gaziantep in terms of local and international CSOs. Besides, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality has a separate Migration Office dealing solely with social services and facilities provided for refugees.

Humanitarian Aid Services of CSOs

 In Gaziantep, as well as in Turkey, humanitarian aid and protection programs are the main services provided for refugees by the CSOs. Their approach includes, but not limited to, case management (one time money assistance), outreach monitoring and other programs. Governmental bodies provide basic services with the help of other implementing partners (as stated below) and CSOs in the field.

Main local actors in the field work together with international donors such as UN Agencies and European Embassies based in Turkey and with local partnerships such as Gaziantep Municipality. ASAM provide several basic services including legal, social and medical counselling; social cohesion[5] activities; psycho-social services and protection programs. Majority of these services are given in Multi-Service Support Centers not only to non-Syrians but also to locals in the city. Following ASAM, Kamer Foundation is working with refugee women, to fulfil their basic needs of legal consultancy, health and vocational courses. Care International is another CSO which provides humanitarian aid to the refugees in the city. In addition to those, there is a small number of local organizations which conduct critical researches and social-awareness projects regarding refugees. Kırkayak Culture House is well-known in Gaziantep which conducts field studies in and around Gaziantep area and provides important reports such as their latest research on “Syrian Dom Asylum Seekers”[6]. The influence of Gaziantep municipality has been explicit all throughout the field research and their positive attempts to provide services for refugees, such as cooperation with many CSOs as well as establishing centers in the refugee neighborhoods, were expressed by many representatives during the interviews.

It is also important to mention the value-based associations which provide help to Syrians with a “compassion” (şefkat) approach rather than rights-based perspective. Bülbülzade Foundation provide educational facilities, language classes, vocational courses, financial supports as well as Arabic newspaper and radio broadcasts for Syrians. They underline value-based motives; expressions such as “guest brings abundance” (misafir bereket getirir) is emphasized in their approach.

Rising Xenophobia in the city

The tension between the Syrian and non-Syrian refugees as well as the locals and refugees has been rising in the city for the last few years. The tension between the Syrian and non-Syrians is mainly because of the unequal distribution of aids. Most of them are merely allocated to Syrians under the “temporary protection status”, whereas non-Syrians under “international protection status” cannot access to the same services. For instance, if Syrians are registered in Turkey and own an ID Card, they have free access to all health services, but non-Syrians are asked to pay an amount same as the local people. This may create a disadvantaged situation for the non-Syrians refugees.

More importantly, disinformation and fake news spread by the people and mass media rage local people against refugees. Rumors such as “Turkish state pays salaries to refugees” and “refugees took over the jobs of local people” can be counted as some of those well-known examples. The incidents have been rising especially in the poorer neighborhoods of Gaziantep where refugees and locals live together.

Findings of the field research in Izmir

The population of metropolitan Izmir is 4.2 million and registered Syrians are 120.623 which makes % 2.86 of the city population[7]. As of November 9, 2017, 16.667 foreign people are issued residence permits in Izmir. The city enormously drew international attention in 2015, due to the irregular boat crossings on Aegean Sea[8]. Basmane district has been the mid-point for smugglers and refugees to meet and negotiate about the crossing fees.

In late 2015, the refugee population was estimated to be between 400-500 thousand people. They were becoming more visible as the size of the group was increasing: Refugees were sleeping on the streets. Many CSOs and European embassies paid visits to the city. CSOs expressed their situation as such: “In those times, we couldn’t do our work due to the embassy and donor visits to the organization”. The refugee numbers in the city slowly decreased after the signature of the EU-Turkey Migration Deal in March 2016 and the subsequent increase in the protection of maritime boundaries by the authorities.

Actors and Initiatives in the Field

One of the significant characteristics of Izmir stems from the diversity of CSOs which provide different services for refugees in the city. For instance, apart from state institutions and national organizations working for refugees, local initiatives are remarkably effective in Izmir. These initiatives are launched either by local people or refugees themselves. Association of People’s Bridge (Halkların Köprüsü Derneği) identifies itself as a solidarity group, rather than civil society organization hence they don’t apply to international donors for financial support. They started to work for refugees in 2015 due to the urgent necessity in the city as mentioned above. This initiative provides aid-in-kind and establishes workshops for refugees to help their basic needs. IMECE is another initiative based in Çeşme near Izmir and provides aids-in-kind supports for refugees.

There are also refugee initiatives in Izmir which has strong connections with local people and organizations. For instance, Leather, Textile, Shoe Workers Solidarity Association (Deri Tekstil Kundura İşçileri Dayanışma Derneği) is an important initiative gathered in 2013 by the local and refugee workers and same year, they went on strike together. The initiative was established by an Afro-Turk activist, who also took part in the organization process of Doors (Kapılar) initiative, in Kapılar area of Basmane. Women Door (Kadın Kapısı) is the women branch of this initiative which is mostly run by local volunteers and provide support to women and children in the neighborhood. Last but not least, Solidarity with Syrian Refugees Association (Suriyeli Mültecilerle Dayanışma Derneği) is also another organization which started as a small group and institutionalized throughout the time to the extent that they called WAHA International from France in order to implement collective projects for Syrian women in Izmır.

ASAM and MUDEM, which are national associations, provides protection based services to the refugees in the city. In addition to these, Solidarity with Refugees Association (Mülteci-Der) provides legal assistance and does advocacy for refugees in Izmir. This is the first rights-based CSO for refugees in Turkey. Human Association (İnsan-Der) which provides daily food support in Basmane area and Humanitarian Relief Organization (IHH) which organizes aid-in-kind services and more, are value-based organizations such like Bülbülzade Foundation in Gaziantep. In addition to these, local organizations with different target groups also provide activities for refugees in the city. For example, Izmir Musicians Association (İzmir Müzisyenler Derneği) visited 50 refugee houses and organized a choir of refugee children while Izmir Bikers Association celebrated 8 of March Women’s Day with women refugees on the bike by cycling the coast. In this framework, the services provided by the organizations in Izmir constitute a wide range of activities but is modest in number compared to Gaziantep. Unlike Gaziantep, the representatives of CSO expressed that physical rage against refugees is not witnessed in the city and they explained this situation by the invisibility of refugees. Despite these statements, negative discourses such like the “refugees took over our jobs” are also valid in Izmir.

The central Coordination Meeting (Koordinasyon Toplantısı) brings central authorities together each month to discuss the issues about refugees in Izmir. AFAD (Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency) is originally responsible for the refugees in the camps but since there is no camp in Izmir, it took over the responsibility of these coordination meetings where governorship, municipality and some civil society organizations are gathered. On the other hand, İzmir Konak Refugee Assembly (İzmir Konak Mülteci Meclisi) has a pioneering role in the metropolitan municipality for calling all the actors to the assembly meetings without excluding any small organization and/or group initiative working for the refugees. In these assembly meetings, they strengthen the network in order to evaluate the provided services and organize public events for raising awareness in the city.

Some final evaluations

Turkey has been through an intense experience with Syrian refugees for the last five years. This period has started with temporary aids (aids-in-kind) where refugees were expected to turn back to their countries after a short while. Throughout the time, it was understood that they wouldn’t due to the worse conditions in Syria. This constituted another level in reception services of Turkish State, and thereafter, protection based services were launched. Currently, social cohesion programs are being discussed both by the authorities and civil society organizations. However, there are also some operational aspects of refugee reception process which needs to be addressed. First of all, the representative CSOs in general expressed that they were looking forward to new Law on Foreigners and International Protection[9] for a very long time to have a legal procedure describing the rights for refugees in the country. Although many services have been provided since then, at present, CSOs are looking forward to full implementation of the new law which probably requires some more time to settle completely.

Moreover, the diverse discourses regarding Syrians, which are available in the national and international media, may have negative effects in the refugee reception process as well. For instance, the previous “temporary guest” discourse: It became explicit that refugees are not temporary visitors and cannot leave the country soon. On the other hand, “guest” discourse is not enough to highlight the present services provided by the Turkish government. For this reason, another status for Syrian refugees seems necessary which will recognize their permanent situation in the country. This would not only help to define sustainable services to Syrians, but also offer more occasions to the Turkish government, both in the national and international arena, to promote their migration management strategies in the refugee reception process.


[1] As of November 9, 2017, for more information please see [accessed 10.11.2017].

[2] In the year of 2016, please see (in Turkish) [accessed 08.11.2017].

[3] For more information please see: (in Turkish) [accessed 18.11.2017].

[4] Recent numbers are announced in 09.11.2017 by the DGMM [accessed 18.11.2017].

[5] Turkish authorities and related organizations use the word cohesion instead of integration based on the idea that integration is a term that has negative connotations due to the European assimilationist experience.

[6] The Dom. ‘The Other’ Asylum Seekers from Syria. Discrimination, Isolation and Social Exclusion: Syrian Dom Asylum Seekers in the Crossfire, (2017), Kırkayak Kültür, Gaziantep. Available at: [accessed 10.11.2018]

[7] Recent numbers are announced in 09.11.2017 by the DGMM [accessed 15.11.2017].

[8] For more information please see, [accessed 10.11.2017].

[9] “Law on Foreigners and International Protection” was ratified in 2013, in Turkey.

Laws, Policies and Politics of Forced Displacement in Lebanon

National and Municipal Approaches: Complementarity or Autonomy?


Shirine ARAB

Ph.D. Candidate

Public International Law (ILF-GERJC) at Aix-Marseille University


The armed conflicts currently underway in Syria, with its flurry of deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and ensuing large-scale displacement of populations have been a consistent feature of the Syrian conflict since its inception. The level of violence has generated a massive population of 6.3 million Internally Displaced Persons and 4.8 million refugees in the region and beyond[1].

“Despite the magnitude and almost continuous nature of the flows of displacement over several decades in the Middle East, the region has also been characterised by having largely informal, sometimes ad hoc, systems of dealing with refugee issues, which raises concerns among analysts and practitioners […] in providing effective protection and assistance to those who need it most’’[2]. Some of the questions that arise include the influence of the current (Arab Spring linked) uprisings on policies and laws on protection, sovereignty and Nation-State building and Nation-Identity, and citizenship and border controls, which are challenged by the increasing numbers of people currently fleeing the conflicts, as well as the respect of Fundamental Rights. In dealing with forced displacement, politics are referred to informal and formal political factors that impact policies making.

In Lebanon, the response to the Syrian refugee crisis has from the outset faced many challenges including the lack of an adequate national response strategy due to weak local governance capacities, the lack of effective protection agenda and poor coordination amongst the main stakeholders: International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and Local NGO’s, United Nations Agencies, State Actors, Informal and Formal Local Authorities, Human Rights, Development Actors, etc.

As the Syrian Non-International Armed conflict[3] (NIAC) prolonged, the government of Lebanon nevertheless took on its own measures to respond to the refugee crisis. Although lacking official responsibility municipalities considered addressing the issue of displacement at local level, based on moral and legal imperatives. In fact, there was a need to focus on humanitarian relief and development aid while maintaining stability as stipulated by the Lebanese Constitution, including through the Lebanese government and municipalities. Some discussions focused on whether aid should be limited to Syrian refugees or extended to local communities, for whom the crisis was posing serious challenges, especially in those municipalities hosting large numbers of refugees.

A number of factors help explain the increasing number of Syrians at the beginning of the conflict, including the 1993 Bilateral Agreement for Economic and Social Cooperation and Coordination[4]. This policy remained de facto in place until January 2015. As the Syrian Non-International Armed Conflict (NIAC) forced civilians to flee to Lebanon, they settled primarily in the North – and later in the Bekaa, given the proximity of the border to the main zones of conflict and to historic and familial links or trade relations between the two populations, in addition to the migrant workers who used to work in either seasonal or low-skilled field activities.

In this context, this working paper seeks to discuss the collaboration mechanisms amongst central and local Lebanese authorities and international humanitarian actors in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, in light of the recent regulatory changes. This report will also focus on the situation in the urban district of Zgharta-Ehden in North Lebanon, as an illustration of national and municipal responses: do they intermesh?

National Policies and Politics

In the early stages of the Syrian refugee influx in Lebanon, which ran from March 2011 through the beginning of 2012, the border remained de facto open, which eased humanitarian assistance, despite the fact that Lebanon is not party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. As such, Lebanon “won significant praise from Human Rights groups and UNHCR for its open borders and non-encampment policy”, which appeared as an ad hoc response rather than a commitment to International Law within a policy framework[5]. The non-encampment policy was accompanied with the rejection of permanent settlement of Syrian refugees based on widely shared feeling amongst Lebanese stakeholders that such settlement would be negative for the country’s political and economic interests.

The negative feelings is geared to factors including thirty years of Syrian military presence in Lebanon and the country’s previous experience with Palestinians, have disabled public policy, including the major opposed political lines towards the conflict in Syria who read the crisis differently. In addition the Syrian refugee crisis has divided the Lebanese political arena[6] to the current rupture point: either the State implements more integration policies, or the Syrian refugee crisis will lead to more internal political rifts.

In 2012, as no agreement among political parties was set up by the Ba’abda Declaration[7] vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis, and the use of “displaced persons or groups[8] (a less legally constraining and binding term) as a legitimate phrasing by the Lebanese Government rather than “refugees” (a more loaded term with reference to the obligations under the 1951 Geneva Convention), all emphasise that Lebanon is not a country of asylum nor it does integrate refugees in their social fabric. In addition to the absence of a clear vision and national strategy to cope with the crisis, the focus of the discussion of the Lebanese National Dialogue Committee was also on the nature of the assistance, whether it should focus more on development or humanitarian relief. The declaration, as said, did not refer to the refugee context but underlined the “right to humanitarian solidarity” as “guaranteed under the constitution and the law”[9]. Besides, the discussions resulted in consensus that “measures should then be taken to control the situation on the Lebanese-Syrian border”, and that the country “should seek to avoid the negative repercussions of regional tensions and crisis in order to preserve its own paramount interest, national unity and civil peace, except where the matter concerns resolutions of international legitimacy, Arab consensus or the rightful Palestinian cause, including the right of Palestinian refugees return to their land and homes rather than being integrated.’’[10]

All the while, different Lebanese political actors have been involved in the Syria civil war, such as Hezbollah who have backed the regime – the Syrian NIAC was turning into a protracted one. In Lebanon, the political dynamic is divided into pro and anti-Assad supports. The Syrian refugee crisis triggered new concerns about the confessional balance in Lebanon, especially within the Christian community, and the possibility of increasing sectarian tension in the country. Michel Suleiman, the Lebanese President at that time defined the Syrian refugee presence as an existential crisis when voicing concerns to the UN General Assembly in 2013. Indeed, Hezbollah pointed out the humanitarian duty to prove their hospitality towards Syrians referring to the 2006 Lebanon-Israel War where many Lebanese from Shi’a areas took refuge in Syria. In parallel, in the first phase, representatives of the March 14 Coalition[11] called for a hospitable approach as a moral humanitarian duty, which was also perceived as a political asset in the light of their political ideas. However, throughout the evolving nature of the war in Syria and the flows of refugees in Lebanon, the debate on sectarianism, politicisation, confessional structures and the magnitude and uncertainty of the crisis and borders’ matters, the Syrian refugee crisis was rather defined as an existential threat.

Then, a “political controversy over what was to be done with displaced people’’ began between the two main political camps in Lebanon: the first camp advocated a do nothing policy whereas the second one suggested the construction of refugee camps[12]. The idea of establishing camps was abandoned as it may turn into long-term settlement, and correlated risk of that Syrian similarly to the Palestinians reorganize into political and extra-territorial entities and armed groups and further erode the security situation in Lebanon.

With the change of the Lebanese government in 2014 breaking a ten-month political deadlock during which the Syrian conflict worsened internal instability, more regulations were taken. The government conducted discussions with international organisations involved in, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan[13] such as the World Bank and the United Nations. Among the response points was ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance primarily to Syrian de facto refugees and the poorest Lebanese, with a view to developing a constructive relationship between the two communities. By the last quarter of 2014, a “policy on Syrian displacement” was proposed and approved by the Lebanese Government. The final policy paper, which became effective in January 2015, focuses more on development than humanitarian aid, and aims at reducing the number of Syrian registered refugees with the UNHCR by reducing access of Syrian refugees to the national territory and encouraging returns to Syria. Finally, the paper addresses security concerns and economic burdens, notably at the institutional and local community levels. K. GEBARA, Lebanon’s Interior Ministry Advisor, explains “there were cooperation initiatives with the UNHCR aimed at producing policies based on identifying the displaced, and distinguishing them from the Syrians present in Lebanon for economic reasons. The aim was to distinguish between the two groups on the basis that the displaced would get more protection mechanisms. Some of the measures at the end of 2014 therefore appear illogical or inconsistent with international standards. […]”[14]. Indeed, the political and legal approach of the Lebanese Government towards the UNHCR and other NGOs became relevant.

As many other States in the Middle East, Lebanon does not have formal domestic refugee legislation. Rather, with the 2015 regulations, the Lebanese authorities have underlined the Syrian refugee crisis not to be governed by law, but by governmental decisions, which means that domestic law and bilateral agreements are dismissed. As such, many refugees are in a deeply precarious legal position, as they have no status other than that afforded to Syrian nationals in general. As with previous refugee populations such as the Palestinians and the Iraqis, the legal status of Syrians in Lebanon currently sits in a vague area between aliens, displaced, and de facto refugees[15]. The internationally acknowledged notion of refugee was consequently abandoned. The related-problems extended to lacking legal registration[16] or personal legal records – and therefore stateless, invalid resident permits, and the loss of legal information and documentation, which all pose serious humanitarian (such as resettlement for Syrians), security, and political impacts on both Lebanese and Syrian communities.

Municipal Regulation of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Under such conditions, municipalities have been coping with the social and economic consequences of inflow of Syrian refugees with limited human and material resources. In administrative language, municipal governance is the third local-level of public administration. First come governorate that are, in turn, divided into districts. In fact, the governorates are not of importance due to the fact that the Governor (Al Muhafez) does not have defined authority, except he is the representative of the central government. The second reason lies in the fact that the political authority and power are centralised and exclusive to the central government, which monopolises all authority in the country.

According to the 1977 Decree-Law[17], any work having a public character or utility within the area of the municipality falls under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Council. Yet, many municipalities have formed municipal unions, which have become important actors in the context of decentralisation, as they represent the front line in dealing with refugees and are aware of community needs, alongside local and international organisations. This same commitment to decentralisation was reflected in the 1989 Ta’if Agreement of National Reconciliation to empower municipal public work. However, municipalities remain constrained administratively and fiscally and the central government still monopolises regional and local powers. Their resources are insufficient to cover the needs of both their constituents and the refugees under their jurisdiction, despite the support from international organizations.

Due to the lack of a national policy for the management of the Syrian refugees, local-level municipalities were actually left alone to regulate the latter’s presence and integration. In turn, this led to varying and sometimes contradictory responses within government agencies and municipalities. Indeed, with the lack of a coherent national plan, many informal tented settlements and camps were established. Moreover, “misinterpretation of governmental decisions[18]” drove them to lead actions that were not always in line with national law or the municipalities’ legal authority. The imposition by municipalities of local curfews on Syrians, which reduced freedom of movement and blocked access to small businesses, and access to justice, in the purpose of addressing insecurity and “general social fatigue” perceptions, is a case in point,[19]. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW)[20], Municipal Council and others imposed some curfews by Mayors. The autonomy conveyed to municipalities has also led to a fragmented-management of the crisis. Central authorities, at the State and Municipal levels, are selective in their commitment to the laws and the Lebanese Constitution when dealing with refugees, and the absence of centralised policies has created various different levels of measures [21]. Yet, on a short-term, local-level initiatives conducted by municipalities’ units filled gaps in services provision. However, on a longer-term, the question remains whether, options should be gathered and unified to provide central support policies and manage the large-scale refugee crisis in Lebanon.

Moreover, while “municipalities were required to determine the Syrian refugees qualified for different forms of aid based on their varying needs and vulnerabilities, their Lebanese hosts that live in similar conditions were excluded from the exercise”[22]. In this context, municipalities voiced concerns over the challenges of needs classification and transferred the task to the central government and donors, who later included the Lebanese host communities as beneficiaries of their assistance schemes.

Since 2014, a number of municipalities in Lebanon have established new procedures to regulate the presence of Syrian refugees within their jurisdiction. The majority of municipalities considered these new options to address security concerns and complaints from their Lebanese counterparts. These procedures were adopted based on instructions announced by the Interior Ministry starting in 2014, including security matters.

The Municipality of Zgharta-Ehden: towards regulatory options?

In the district of Zgharta-Ehden, numerous Syrian refugees wait to receive the voucher for the purchase of food, hygiene and childhood kit, distributed by the municipality through a partnership with international NGOs, including Oxfam.

In the Maronite Christian district of Zgharta, in which Ehden lies, residents believe that Syrian newcomers in the town brought instability, took off their jobs, and paralysed tourism (competing with nationals, existential and demographic dimension, etc.). In order to improve the municipality’s ability to reduce the conflict between Syrian refugees and the hosting communities, the Municipality of Zgharta-Ehden is, first, “collecting information about the presence of Syrian refugees and issuing cards to them[23], for the sake of creating a lawful and orderly situation”[24]. Going forward, the municipality intends to map refugees scattered in the various neighbourhoods of the town, including informal settlements, schools or urban localities. In practice, the main measure is checking the sponsorship for each Syrian individual in order to help the latter regularise his/her status. In parallel to the field surveys, the municipality aims at developing a more pragmatic approach to address the flows of displacement, in the absence of central policies, while the Municipal Council has enjoyed more autonomy. In the longer run, the Ehden local initiative calls for facilitating repatriation and return to their homes when the conflict in Syria ends, as stressed the Mayor of Zgharta-Ehden. In this context, the option of regularising is legal-oriented and seeks to address refugees’ temporary presence in the district, their access to job market, and the need of social cohesion and integration for the on-going period of time.

In developing collaborations with neighbouring municipalities to cope with refugee matters, and through discussions with State authorities regarding a possible return to home, the municipality appears to put forward local binding regulatory options within its jurisdiction. In the case of Zgharta’s district, the municipality’s involvement in managing the Syrian refugee displacement crisis has reduced the impact of restricting the issue to the central authorities.


Despite being a country hosting a high number of refugees, and despite the remarkable generosity in receiving a large proportion of refugees, the refugees’ protection regime in Lebanon remains fragile. In fact, in addition to the fears of the country’s long term Palestinian refugee presence and the lack of refugee protection legal regulations, the security approach to governance takes precedence over the rights based approach. Furthermore, as discussed above, policies towards large-scale displacement, throughout its contemporary history, remain ad hoc and emergency-based, despite the development assistance approach. It may be said that, for all it shortcomings, Lebanon’s governance offers “a certain degree of flexibility”. However, operational challenges remain acute: aid agencies struggle to reach all refugees due to the urban nature of today’s displacement, which all contribute to more marginalisation and vulnerability. In the midst of on-going conflicts, the new waves of displacement, in Lebanon, took place “in or to areas already struggling with previous waves, leading to multi-layered and complex crises[25]”.

The initial hope of strengthening the existing fragile protection regime is challenged by the evolving situation on the ground on political and policies’ changes levels.

Looking forward to the end of the Syrian conflicts, it is indeed more likely that Syrian refugees will return to Syria than resettling in a third country by the UNHCR. Not least the refugees themselves agree that the main solution will be to return home when violations of their rights cease and to voluntary repatriate in safety and dignity. Integration in the host country, such as Lebanon, seems to face numerous obstacles and existing barriers, including the regulatory forms placed on their socio-economic rights and livelihoods opportunities, and notably during the protracted previous Iraqi and Palestinian refugee crises.

To conclude, despite all challenges discussed above, there is indeed on the long term a new sense of justice among both populations and policy-makers, and the curious and significant resilience of refugees themselves throughout the country and the region. Such factors could help temper transitional phases, which are often disturbed, to address the effects of past or on-going violations and failures to protect individuals. Transitional Justice phases also presuppose that sustainable goal protection requires the achievement of accountable forms of democratic systems of governance, which concludes normative development in related fields[26]. For that purpose, policies should be developed, differentiating between the medium and longer run needs, taking into account formal and informal practices and structures. Engaging hosting communities and refugees is very much in demand and the activities led by international organisations and local NGOs shall take part of policies in emergencies relief. Historic connections and international law are only one part of the whole massive displacement questions; they are indeed socio-political and economic angles that should be in.

[1] Mapping the Law That Applies to War Crimes in Syria, by Beth VAN SCHAACK, in Just Security, February 2016

[2] Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa: Between an Arab Winter and the Arab Spring, Working Paper by Shaden KHALLAF, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut Policy Institute, August 2013

[3] Under Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, non-international armed conflicts are armed conflicts in which one or more non-State armed groups are involved. Depending on the situation, hostilities may occur between governmental armed forces and non-State armed groups or between such groups only. International Committee of the Red Cross definition of NIAC under International Humanitarian Law.

[4] Article 1 of the 1993 Agreement for Economic and Social Cooperation and Coordination between the Lebanese Republic and the Syrian Arab Republic ensures the Freedom of persons’ movement between both countries’ and Freedom to stay, work, employ and practice economic activity in conformity with the laws and regulations in force in each country (Available at:

[5] The Legal Status of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Working Paper by Maja JANMYR, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut Policy Institute, March 2016

[6] The Lebanese political landscape is a system of power sharing where all members of government have to agree on major decisions. The government is considered unconstitutional when a third of the Lebanese cabinet resigns: the Blocking Third Mechanism is based on an interpretation of the Lebanese Constitution. See Articles 65, 69, and Article 95 of the Constitution. This model aims at maintaining stability.

[7] Baabda Declaration issued by the National Dialogue Committee on 11 June 2012

[8] International law and Soft Law frameworks on displaced persons refer to Internally Displaced Persons according to Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, they are “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border. » Unlike refugees, these internally displaced persons do not have a special status in international law with rights specific to their situation. The term « internally displaced person » is merely descriptive (Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, OHCHR).

[9] National Dialogue, Presidency of the Republic of Lebanon, 2012

[10] Identical Letters Dated 13 June 2012 from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, United Nations General Assembly Security Council A/66/849-S/2012/477, 21 June 2012

[11] The March 14 Alliance, named after the date of the Cedar Revolution, is a coalition of political parties and independents in Lebanon formed in 2005 that are united by their anti-Syrian regime stance and their opposition to the March 8 Alliance.

[12] The Repercussions of the Syrian Refugee Crisis on Lebanon: The Challenges of Providing Services and Creating Jobs, The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), Roundtable Report Series, January 2016

[13] The LCPR aims at ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance primarily to Syrian de facto refugees and the poorest Lebanese, strengthening the capacity of national and local public delivery systems to accommodate the basic needs of the aforementioned peoples, and supporting Lebanon’s economic, social, institutional and environmental stability.

[14] Interior Ministry Advisor: Lebanon Refugee Policy Based on Set of “Nos”, Interview with Khalil GEBARA, by Ghida FRANGIEH and Elham BARJAS, The Legal Agenda, 2016

[15] De facto refugee was a temporary solution to the grey area the legal status of Syrians lies in – referring to Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon. Even if the Government of Lebanon does not legally recognise the UNHCR document as resident permit, the latter shall guarantee protection, namely the Non-Refoulement Principle as stated in the 1962 Regulation of the Status of Foreign Nationals in Lebanon in its Article 31 (Appendix 1).

[16] Gebara explains that the Ministry of Interior’s ‘’does not oppose registering the birth of Syrians so they are not separated from their families, but it can not break the laws that stipulate that residence is needed to obtain a birth certificate”, in Interior Ministry Advisor: Lebanon Refugee Policy Based on Set of “Nos”, Interview with Khalil GEBARA, by Ghida FRANGIEH and Elham BARJAS, The Legal Agenda, 2016

[17] Decree-Law No. 118 Dated 30/6/1977& Its Amendments Municipal Act, Government of Lebanon Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, 2009

[18] Supporting Municipalities in Responding to the Refugee Crisis, The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), May 2016

[19] The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon, State Fragility and Social Resilience, Filippo DIONIGI, LSE Middle East Centre Paper Series, LSE Middle East Centre, February 2016

[20] Lebanon: At least 45 Local Curfews Imposed on Syrian Refugees, Human Rights Watch, 2014

[21] Interior Ministry Advisor: Lebanon Refugee Policy Based on Set of “Nos”, Interview with Khalil GEBARA, by Ghida FRANGIEH and Elham BARJAS, The Legal Agenda, 2016

[22] Supporting Municipalities in Responding to the Refugee Crisis, Ibid.

[23] Temporary and Identification Cards seek to address mainly the freedom of movement but does not replace a residence permit

[24] These information were collected during a meeting with the Mayor of Zgharta-Ehden, Dr. Cesar BASSIM, in January 2017 in Ehden, North Lebanon

[25] Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa: Between an Arab Winter and the Arab Spring, Working Paper by Shaden KHALLAF, Ibid.

[26] Protection in the Past Tense: Restitution at the Juncture of Humanitarian Response to Displacement and Transitional Justice, by Rhodri C.WILLIAMS, in Transitional Justice and Displacement, Edited by Roger DUTHIE, ICTJ Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, Social Science Research Council, New York, 2012

La mesure comme objet de recherche : données quantitatives et cartographie des camps de réfugiés

Léa Macias [1]

Les camps de réfugiés constituent une réponse humanitaire standardisée par des années de pratiques de la part des organisations internationales et des ONG. Les statistiques y sont d’abord utilisées pour évaluer le nombre de réfugiés à l’intérieur de cet espace clos afin de planifier une réponse. Avec la pérennisation des camps dans le temps, les données quantitatives font désormais partie intégrante des opérations humanitaires notamment avec le développement d’indicateurs devant garantir qualité et équité dans la distribution des services aux réfugiés. Ce billet vient ainsi explorer l’enjeu de l’information dans la réponse humanitaire et ainsi la production de savoir humanitaire dans l’espace en urbanisation que constitue un camp de réfugiés.

  1. Un nouveau paradigme : une meilleure réponse humanitaire est une réponse informée

La mesure, et la statistique sont nées d’une volonté de produire des données quantitatives pour comprendre la situation d’un État à gouverner (Rey, 2016). Les enjeux de la construction des indicateurs sont importants car ils couvrent les modalités de recueil des données, la pondération des facteurs et ainsi mettent en lumière « ce qui compte » pour le débat public (Fassert, 2011). L’indicateur devient la chose elle-même et « crée la réalité » (Desrosières, 1993). Les chiffres deviennent alors un instrument du pouvoir et les opérations statistiques de classification une ressource cognitive du pouvoir politique (Moulin, 2011).

Observer la mesure et la donnée dans le contexte des opérations humanitaires permet de révéler ce qui est mis en avant par ces acteurs, les stratégies et les évolutions d’un secteur en pleine professionnalisation. Les indicateurs et la mesure du développement viennent alors alimenter une réponse en accord avec un ensemble de standards internationaux (les indicateurs SPHERE, les guidelines du Camp Coordination and Camp Management, etc.). Ces indicateurs développés dans le cadre d’une approche sectorielle de l’humanitaire participent de la création de cadres opérationnels stricts, d’un mode opératoire standardisé qui donne lieu à une architecture similaire de la réponse, et un ainsi un paysage de camps. Ils ont été crées sur le postulat qu’assistance et protection sont indissociables mais portent uniquement sur le contenu de l’assistance humanitaire. Cette ingénierie humanitaire a engendré la production de chiffres, de statistiques, d’outils de suivi de la réponse humanitaire mais aussi de cartes poussant à une certaine professionnalisation de l’aide humanitaire, et occultant des débats de fond pour n’aborder que les aspects techniques de l’aide (Agier et Saulnier, 2003).

Un enjeu de maximisation de l’impact des programmes est aussi observable. Ainsi des politiques de triage et de choix des bénéficiaires sont à l’œuvre : les ressources humanitaires sont limitées et dans le camp, certains réfugiés sont caractérisés comme plus vulnérables que d’autres. En effet, ce type de réponse qui s’inscrit dans la durée et dans un contexte de diminution des budgets de bailleurs clés comme USAID, devient un enjeu pour les ONG qui opèrent une sélection des réfugiés. Ces derniers deviennent alors « bénéficiaires » d’une aide humanitaire distribuée selon des critères de vulnérabilité eux aussi établis selon des cadres d’analyses et des indicateurs crées notamment au sein des clusters humanitaires (sécurité alimentaire, eau hygiène et assainissement, etc.), eux mêmes composés d’organisations internationales et d’ONG.

Ainsi, les chiffres viennent nourrir un système cherchant à sélectionner ses bénéficiaires et à adapter ses programmes selon un modèle coûts-bénéfices. Les camps de réfugiés, en tant qu’espaces de contrôle fermés, deviennent ainsi des espaces idéals et idéalisés de la production de statistiques et cartographique dans un paysage global de camps. Ces enjeux, liés à des formes de quantification, font du camp « un assemblage structuré de pouvoirs et de connaissances qui inclut (…) la coordination d’instruments physiques, d’arrangements spatiaux, de moyens de communication ainsi que de collecte et de traitement des données, de procédures logistiques et de pratiques discursives » (Ophir, 2007).

Le camp de Zaatari en Jordanie est un terrain d’observation privilégié. Cette « installation provisoire » a été créée dans un contexte d’afflux massifs de réfugiés en provenance de Syrie (UNHCR, 29 Juillet 2015). « Camp modèle », « gouffre financier », « ville », toutes ces qualifications ont été associées au nom de Zaatari devenu objet d’une production de savoirs humanitaires massive: évaluations des besoins, cartes, rapports d’activités, statistiques démographiques et portails en ligne. Depuis 2013, ce camp est désormais devenu la quatrième « ville » la plus peuplée de la Jordanie, et fait l’objet d’une large couverture médiatique. Ce camp devient au regard des humanitaires un parfait objet statistique et cartographique avec : une population contrôlée, des flux entrants et sortants enregistrés, et de ce fait des possibilités d’échantillonnage et production de résultats dits statistiquement représentatifs.

En effet, de la planification du site à la gestion des camps, la production et la gestion stratégique de l’information via des bases de données, des rapports et des cartes sont devenues des pratiques incontournables des acteurs humanitaires, aussi bien des organisations internationales que des ONG internationales et locales. Outil de gestion des populations, ces statistiques sont aussi une forme d’interaction codifiée entre les acteurs de l’aide humanitaire et les réfugiés. Cela soulève un certains nombre de questionnements : Quels appareils statistiques existent dans les camps de réfugiés ? Qui fabrique ces chiffres ? Comment les indicateurs sont-ils crées et choisis ? Quelles stratégies des acteurs de la gouvernance humanitaire cette analyse révèle-t-elle ? Quelle circulation pour ces savoirs et ces acteurs ?

 Faire de la mesure et de sa représentation cartographique un objet de recherche permet d’explorer un nouveau paradigme de l’aide humanitaire, celui d’opérations humanitaires mieux informées nécessairement plus efficaces. Il s’agit de contribuer à une réflexion sociologique de la professionnalisation de l’humanitaire passant par la standardisation de sa réponse, la production d’une information comparable, comparée et diffusée sur des plateformes globales. Des rapports d’évaluations aux cartes en passant par les plateformes d’échange de données il s’agit aussi de révéler de nouveaux parcours de professionnalisation de l’humanitaire : celui des statisticiens, des chargés de gestions de l’information, des cartographes.

  1. Les camps : entre espaces urbains et production de savoir humanitaire

Le camp comme objet d’études humanitaires a été examiné dans sa dimension d’espace en cours d’urbanisation et de son évolution géographique, politique et sociale, dans le temps (Hyndman, 2000). Le camp est envisagé comme espace urbain par les mobilités (quotidiennes mais aussi moins régulières comme, les arrivées et départs des réfugiés) qu’il engendre ainsi que par les pratiques des réfugiés qui y résident (économiques, politiques, culturelles et sociales) (Doraï, 2014).

Certains chercheurs parlent ainsi d’« urbanité émergente » (Pérouse de Montclos et Kagwanja, 2000) ou encore de « ville-nue » (Agier, 2008), d’ « autres villes globales » (Isin, Engin et Rygiel, Kim, 2007). De nombreuses études sur le développement économique d’un ensemble de camps de Dadaab au Kenya, qui sert souvent de référentiel comparatif au camp de Zaatari, ont été conduites (Enghoff, 2010). Le statut urbain des camps de réfugiés comme évolution inévitable de ces espaces dans le temps est désormais reconnu à la fois par les chercheurs et les acteurs humanitaires (Agier, 2014).

L’urbanisation des camps de réfugiés est devenue un paradigme d’analyse repris comme discours politique engendrant des engagements humanitaires variables : dès lors que le camp de Zaatari est qualifié de ville, cela affecte les perceptions, les discours, les représentations cartographiques et les politiques mises en place autour de ce lieu de déplacement qui reste malgré tout un lieu fermé et contrôlé par des militaires en armes. Certains chercheurs vont plus loin en affirmant que les programmes de développement intégrés dès la planification même du camp viennent opérer un contrôle social qui dépasse la conscience des travailleurs humanitaires et vient agir comme plan ordonnateur de la ville en devenir (Jaji, 2011).

Si cette ingénierie humanitaire a donné lieu à des travaux ethnographiques sur le camp comme ensemble urbain de gestion des populations déplacées, peu de recherches s’interrogent sur l’action humanitaire, par ses programmes et la construction de batteries d’indicateurs, d’outils cartographiques, et donc de normes mais aussi sur la perceptions qu’en ont les réfugiés, contribuent-ils à penser le camp comme une ville? Les interactions au sein du camp de Zaatari liées à l’évaluation des besoins produisent-elles une organisation similaire à celle d’une ville ?

Ainsi, en se concentrant sur la mesure et sa représentation dans l’humanitaire, il s’agit de dépasser le questionnement sur la fiabilité des données (Crisp, 1999). Pourquoi faudrait-il compter les réfugiés, quand les limites méthodologiques de cette démarche sont reconnues ? Plus qu’une exactitude et une rigueur mathématique, les statistiques sont collectées par des moyens technocratiques afin d’imposer une notion d’équité en dévaluant les principes de gestion de crise locaux (Bakewell, 1999).

Les usages des statistiques dans l’humanitaire ont essentiellement été étudiés à travers les pratiques de triage (Lachenal, Lefève, Nguyen, 2014). La subjectivité de l’analyse d’un professionnel est alors opposée à l’objectivité d’un score attribué de façon automatique (Porter, 2003). La décision publique, celle de l’aide humanitaire, devient un exercice mathématique selon un modèle coût-bénéfices. Cependant, même dans la recherche, ces travaux produisent un discours d’urgence et « une approche entièrement impliquée dans un savoir-pouvoir qui structure et ordonne le discours sur les réfugiés et leurs mobilités » (Nyers, 2006). De précédents travaux ont également été mené à propos de la production de savoir humanitaire, notamment en Éthiopie et la négociation des chiffres utilisés par les systèmes d’alerte précoces utilisés dans la réponse humanitaire à la famine (Enten, 2008), mais aucune étude systématique n’a été menée sur les camps de réfugiés comme lieux de production d’un/du savoir humanitaire via les statistiques et leur cartographie.

En étudiant les données humanitaires de leur collecte à leur représentation cartographique, il devient possible de déconstruire des discours et des pratiques de l’humanitaire en pleine mutation notamment liée à un usage des nouvelles technologies. Cette approche de la mesure, du savoir humanitaire et de leurs représentations explore ainsi un nouveau paradigme de l’humanitaire selon lequel une meilleure réponse est une réponse informée mais aussi et surtout mesurée.


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[1] Ce billet est issu d’une recherche de thèse entamée en Septembre 2016 à l’EHESS sous la direction de Michel Agier, et la supervision de Kamel Doraï, portant sur la production de données statistiques dans le camp de Zaatari en Jordanie.