Changing migration policy in challenging settings
By: Hadi Zeatir and Mariam Awada (interns at IFI)
In this blog post, we reflect on the discussions at the workshop on the Effects of the Externalisation of EU borders. We highlight some of the main and recurring discussions from the day and draw some key points and avenues for future research.
The situation in Lebanon: Challenges faced in reforming policy
The social protection system in Lebanon is disjointed, ineffective, and heavily privatised. This means that the poorest and most vulnerable members of the Lebanese population lack support for their fundamental needs due to the inadequate services. Government agencies, foreign NGOs, faith-based organisations, and political party affiliates can all urge for participation in situations involving short-term crises. Lebanon’s politics are frequently dependent on favours and other clientelistic practices and therefore social services can be used as a weapon to retain and stabilise political constituency in Lebanon.
Additionally, Lebanon’s political system lacks accountability, causing international organisations to lose trust in it. Even when health and social services are available, migrants do not use them to their full potential. As a result, migrants may not be aware of their personal safety and health concerns and may not take appropriate measures. Generally, this is due to cultural barriers, which may not recognise that migrants have different risks and needs. No matter their immigration status, all migrants must have improved access to health promotion, care, and treatment under national policies and legislation that protect their rights.
Another key issue facing any reform and funding is that donor fatigue is very high with regard to Lebanon. This has serious implications not only for refugees, but also for Lebanon’s most vulnerable groups. There is no discussion on migration without considering the overlapping economic and social issues.
Turning to the relationship between Lebanon and the EU, the relationship is facing difficulties because the political situation in Lebanon is collapsing. The international community are exerting pressure to reform with clear objectives, but Lebanon is not reforming. For example, the Ministry of Internal Affairs worrying statement about sending back the Syrian refugees which is against international agreements and laws put forth by the international community. This puts the relationship in trouble.
Treatment of refugees in Europe
Even when refugees manage to leave their countries, they can be faced with challenges in what appear to be safe havens. This became obvious when refugess had to move across European borders when the war in Ukraine began. In Europe, the motivation is to assist other people, but is influenced by ideas of “us” and “them.” Who is accepted as a refugee, and who is turned away as an “irregular migrant” are decided by this logic. This treatment also applies to migrants of colour who travel to Europe to work or study. Indeed, we witnessed the adverse treatment of people of colour who were leaving Ukraine at the borders of Europe. There is no denying that culture and skin colour influence refugees’ journeys and outcomes; those who appear to be “European” find community and safety on this continent, while others frequently experience marginalisation and violence.
Future research needs
A key area for future research is the relationship between migration and climate change. There are many complex aspects to consider when considering migrants and climate change. There is a great deal of focus on integration and how to treat refugees within host communities, however, there is little attention to the cause of this migration.
We, as researchers, also need to understand more about the interaction between formal (government and policy) and informal (NGOs, CSOs, etc) mechanisms in facilitating migration. Here, we need to centre on the differences in policy between different countries and especially recognise that understandings of policymaking are often rooted in western understandings where laws are discussed, drafted, and eventually implemented. However, this is not the case in all contexts and indeed in Lebanon, the informal often trumps the formal and therefore there needs to be a different approach to negotiations between the EU and Lebanon.