Resettling Syrian Refugees: The Intersection of Rehabilitation and Protection

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Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan have collectively absorbed approximately 5 million registered refugees--not counting the untold numbers who remain unregistered. As their displacement becomes increasingly protracted and the crisis shows no signs of abating, humanitarians have highlighted the increasing need to shift focus to social cohesion and rehabilitation efforts with an eye toward long-term development. This is especially true for the countries immediately surrounding Syria, where the vast majority of Syrian refugees reside. Due in part to the reticence of Western countries to play a larger role in resettling refugees and the financial and political incentives that have been offered for hosting them closer to home, communities in the Middle East are primarily responsible for addressing the continuing needs of this population.  


As the crisis drags on, integration is impeded by numerous protection challenges in the official camps, informal tented settlements, and host communities where refugees have taken shelter. The rapid influx has strained existing infrastructure and protection apparatuses which are particularly necessary for women and children who make up more than half of all refugees. This is especially the case in the area of education, with some host countries moving to “double shift” school models in efforts to combat the enrollment of large numbers of Syrian refugee children. As UNICEF Lebanon Representative Tanya Chapuisat notes, “Poverty, social exclusion, insecurity, and language barriers are preventing Syrian children from getting an education, leaving an entire generation disadvantaged, impoverished, and at risk of being pushed into early marriage and child labor.”


In addition to education, accessing the labor market also poses a significant challenge for refugees. For female refugees arriving alone certain legal and cultural frameworks can limit opportunities for employment and impede their ability to provide for their families. In Jordan and Lebanon, for example, women are not allowed to pass citizenship down to their children, leaving a new generation of undocumented, Syrian refugee children at even greater risk for exploitation. Limited employment opportunities for male heads of households have also disrupted traditional family roles, with additional research showing an increase in domestic and gender-based violence.


In a panel conversation with experts and practitioners, this podcast will explore how the Syrian refugee crisis is reshaping host communities in the Middle East, what challenges remain for the protection of vulnerable populations, and opportunities for advancing humanitarian protection and the integration of refugees into host communities.  

Key Questions

  • How has the Syrian refugee crisis impacted the economic stability and security of the Middle East over the last six years?

  • What are some of the most vulnerable refugee demographics requiring rehabilitation and integration at the moment, and how can aid workers and policymakers better address their concerns?

  • How can the humanitarian sector better address some of the ongoing challenges in terms of education, labor, and other rehabilitation concerns?  How do protection concerns impede progress in these areas/intersect with these areas?

  • Given Western countries’ reticence to accepting higher quotas of refugees, how much of a role should the international community play in encouraging host countries to adopt more comprehensive protection mechanisms?  How can Western governments support rehabilitation and integration if it is indeed their role?


Her Excellency Reem Abu Hassan
Lawyer, human rights advocate, and civil society activist
Jordanian Minister of Social Development, 2013-2016
  Dr. Amira Ahmed Mohamed 
Assistant Director of Policy and Practice, Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies 
Counter Trafficking Program Manager and Head of Capacity Building Unit, International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2013-2016
  Kate Akkaya, JD
Refugee Rights Turkey Legal Fellow, 2016
Program on Human Rights in the Global Economy Fellow, 2016
  Dr. Denis Sullivan
Director, Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Northeastern University




Dr. Rachel E. McGinnis's picture

I think it is imperative that we are aware of the current dynamics facing unaccompanied boys and young males. I have spent time in Lebanon, Jordan, the Turk-Syrian border, and Greece. Over and over again I watch groups of boys and young men travel by themselves. This often leaves the exposed to greater dangers, last to receive services, and longer time periods of detainment. In Athens, Greece there are squats, parks, movie theaters, and bars dedicated to providing boys and young men that range from survival sex to trafficking to sexual violence. This is not different than multiple areas in Istanbul or Amman or Hamra in Lebanon.

While I understand the focus on women, children, and families first - the group mentioned above cannot continue to wait for the world to recognize their situation. Many of these boys feel neglected, left behind, and scared in the beginning. As time goes by, I have known some of them for five years, they are becoming adults who lack education, skill sets, and community. The appeal of fundamentalist groups, many who sit outside camps, become more and more attractive as they offer housing, food, and most important 'family/community'.

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