Briefing Note Migration Policies in Lebanon



Briefing Note Migration Policies in Lebanon
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Briefing Note
Migration Policies in Lebanon
February 2017
The purpose of this briefing note is to shed light on the expected policy/approach of the
Lebanese government to migration in Lebanon in general (legal and irregular) and the status
of Syrian asylum seekers in particular.
Lebanon is an emigration and immigration country, with a sizeable Lebanese Diaspora, and
large number of foreign workers from different nationalities working in Lebanon. The
country has been hosting a large Syrian population since 2011. Until December 2016, UNHCR
had registered 1,017,433 Syrians in Lebanon. But it is estimated that some 1 500 000 Syrians
are actually living in Lebanon, which amounts to 1/3 of the Lebanese population.
Additionally, some 450 000 Palestinians have been living in Lebanon since 1948, and an Iraqi
community of some 15 000 to 20 000 refugees since 2003.
Migration legislation in Lebanon is not coded in a single document. It is a compilation of
several legislations starting with the 1925 nationality law (amended in 1960) and the 1962
law on the entry, stay and exit of foreigners. These initial documents were supported by
additional legislations, the latest being the Anti-Trafficking Law 164/2011.
Migration has been rarely approached as a topic by itself, but was always associated to a
specific situation: The Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, and lately the mass influx of people
from Syria. In the first and third cases the security component has been predominant, thus
leaving little room for other considerations.
At present, the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon has brought under light again the
challenges- and importance - of border control and monitoring in Lebanon. This situation has
been aggravated by the absence of a Lebanese official humanitarian policy since 2011, and
the inconsistent measures and directives adopted by the consecutive cabinets.
Current Status
The present ministerial action plan (announced on December 28th 2016), makes no mention
of migration, but only of Syrian asylum seekers in Lebanon.
It emphasizes the socio-economic and security weight of the crisis and calls for international
assistance, while suggesting as a solution the safe return of refugees to Syria and rejecting
their integration in host communities in Lebanon. The previous ministerial action plan
mentioned “{the establishment of} projects and programs designed to reduce the economic
and social impacts of the Syrian crisis (4 March 2014)”.
In spite of such commitments on the part of previous cabinets, no official and
comprehensive response policy/plan to the Syrian crisis has been adopted.
The main official State institutions involved in migration and the Syrian crisis humanitarian
response are:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants
Ministry of Interior and Municipalities – mainly the Directorate General of General
Security (DGSG)
Ministry of Labor
Ministry of Social Affairs
Of these four, the DGSG is the implementing arm in terms of controlling border points
(including airport and sea ports), granting visa and stay permits, dealing with and processing
violations of migration rules in Lebanon (detention, regularization of stay, deportation).
In addition to the above-mentioned State institutions, a body of international organisations,
including UNHCR, IOM, as well as the CARITAS Migrant Center is also active in the field of
migration-related activity.
Migration-related matters are regulated in Lebanon through a body of the following
2011 Anti-Trafficking Law n° 164
2010 Decree n° 4186, amending Decree n° 10188 of 28 July 1962 on the
implementation of the law regulating the entry and stay in Lebanon, as well as
leaving the country
2010 Law n° 129 amending article 59 of the Labor Code of 1946
2008 Parliamentary Elections Law n° 25
1995 Decision n°. 621/1 on occupations reserved to Lebanese nationals
1964 By-Law n° 1 7561 regulating the work of foreigners in Lebanon and its
1962 Law regulating the entry of foreigners into Lebanon, their stay and their exit
from Lebanon
1962 Law n° 320 on the control of entry and exit from Lebanese border posts
1925 Decree n°15 modified by law of January 11, 1960
Regular migration is governed by visa rules and procedures of which nationals of some
countries are exempted (entry visa can be granted at the airport or border crossing points).
On the other hand, the mentioned body of laws regulates irregular entry, stay and exit
matters: stay prohibition; duration according to nationality and status; sanctions against
employers of irregular migrants but high rate of informal employment; annual regularization
of irregular migrants through labor authorization. It also prohibits and penalizes trafficking in
human beings, and sexual exploitation. Lebanon has joined a number of treaties on irregular
migration, as follows:
Readmission agreements
Romania (2002)
Bulgaria (2002)
Cyprus (2002)
Switzerland (2004)
EU-Lebanon Association Agreement (2006) whereby EU Member States and Lebanon
agree to readmit any of their nationals illegally present on their respective territories.
Bilateral agreements
Lebanon-Bulgaria (2001) Cooperation agreement on organized crime (including the
fight against illegal immigration and trafficking of human members and the resulting
Lebanon-Cyprus (2002) Cooperation agreement on organized crime (including
cooperation on trafficking in human beings and illegal immigration)
International Agreements
Palermo Protocols: Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons,
Especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants
by Land, Sea and Air (both signed in 2002, ratified in 2005).
EU-Lebanon Association Agreement (2006): includes dialogue on illegal immigration,
and cooperation for the prevention and control of illegal immigration.
Entry of Syrians to Lebanon
As of 2015, the entry of Syrians to Lebanon follows specific rules, according to which those
nationals wishing to enter Lebanon will be admitted upon presentation of valid proof of
identity and other specific documents to support the stated purpose of their stay in
Lebanon, and which must fall into one of a number of approved categories. A list of
categories for which admission would be granted was provided, as well as the duration of
the authorized stay in Lebanon for each category. Currently there are no categories for those
fleeing armed conflict, violence or persecution and seeking safety in Lebanon. There is
however a category for ‘displaced persons’ requiring compliance with either:
a) One of the other entry categories:1
Tourism: Written confirmation of hotel reservation and amount of money proportional with the
duration of stay in Lebanon. Entry given for the duration of reservation and can be renewed for
maximum of 1 month.
Work visit: Only granted to professionals, business or religious persons for business visits not
exceeding 1 month. Confirmation by a Lebanese company is required.
Property owner: If you own property in Lebanon you will receive a 6 months residency permit
renewable for 6 months. Under this category, family members can visit you for a maximum of 2
Tenant: If you have a lease agreement registered with the Municipality and DGSG and proof of
livelihood (i.e. bank account), you will get a 6-month residency permit renewable for the duration of
your lease. Validity of the registration of the lease agreement with DGSG is of 3 months. Some family
members can visit you for a maximum of 2 weeks.
Student: You need to provide proof of acceptance by a Lebanese university, and a valid student card
and previous certificates. You will be granted a 7-day entry permit to finalize your student residency
Shopping: entry for only 24 hours.
Travelling to another country: In case of transit through Lebanon, you must present: valid passport,
visa to a third country and a non-refundable airplane/boat ticket. You will be granted respectively 48
hours or 24 hours transit permit depending if you travel by air or sea.
Medical visits: For entry for medical treatment, you need to present medical reports from a hospital or
doctor in Lebanon. You will receive a 72-hour entry permit renewable for additional 72 hours. One
family member can accompany you.
Appointment with a foreign embassy: 48-hour entry permit renewable upon presentation of proof of
an appointment.
b) The limited ‘humanitarian exceptions criteria’ initially presented by the Ministry of Social
Affairs and which has not yet been shared publicly in final form.
The massive waves of Syrian refugees and displaced persons entering Lebanon neither
influenced the identity of migrant detainees, nor their numbers. Syrians are being arrested
by DGSG for 1 or 2 weeks then released, while DGSG detention centers remain occupied by
domestic workers and other irregular migrants and workers.
Key Considerations
Security concerns related to terrorism and the Syrian crisis are still on the rise in
Lebanon. Hence, it is expected that security considerations remain a top priority for
the present cabinet.
The international community has reiterated its support to Lebanon’s stability and
called for seizing available opportunities to strengthen the country’s resilience in
order to face different challenges including the ones related to the Syrian crisis.
(Press conference held in Beirut by U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag
and U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini)2. This position
comes amid increased talks about a donors’ conference for Lebanon that will
constitute the material side of such support. Yet, in such case, it is the Syrian crisis’
impact on Lebanon and not migration in general, that will be an area of focus. It is
also expected that any assistance to Lebanon be conditioned with legislative reforms,
hence the need for holding the legislative elections on time (May 2017).
Considering the extent to which the Syrian conflict can impact the situation in Lebanon, it is
worth looking with some attention at the political and military situation in Syria, which
stands as follows:
Military Situation in Syria
Around 50% of Syrian territory is still under the control of Daesh3, while the remaining 50%
(described as “useful Syria” i.e. the area that is controlled by the regime and covers
Damascus, Qalamoon, Homos, Daraa, Hama, Tartus, Latakia up to the Turkish borders) is
unequally divided between the Syrian regime forces, the opposition and the Kurdish forces;
the opposition being the least in control. Moderate armed groups such as the Free Syrian
Army are weakened, while radical groups such as Al Nusra are gaining more control – and
popular acceptance because of their social welfare actions.
Daesh is an acronym for the Arabic phrase al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham - Islamic State of Iraq and the
Levant. It is widely used in the Arabic speaking countries.
Borders with Lebanon remain under the control of the Syrian Regime and its allies with
exception to small pockets on the Eastern border under the control of opposition groups
(areas of Al Zabadani from the Syrian side and opposite to Arsal from the Lebanese side).
After the control of Aleppo by the regime forces (and its allies), the focus is now on the city
of Idlib, which is a stronghold for opposition forces. However, any battle seems to be on hold
for the moment, at least awaiting the Kazakhstan talks. Such a battle is not expected to have
a direct impact on Lebanon as per population movement, as the area separating the
Lebanese border from Idlib is under the control of the pro-regime forces – unless these
forces open an exit corridor. Thus any focus on migration in Lebanon can be limited to the
present status quo, with no expectation of additional influx.
Political Situation in Syria
The ceasefire that has been brokered between Russia and Turkey is still holding, amid
mutual accusations of violation by all armed groups (pro and anti-regime).
Talks gathering regime and opposition took place in Astana (Kazakhstan) at the end of
January, although a number of opposition armed factions (most importantly Al Nusra) have
declared their withdrawal from these talks process.
The Astana talks have stressed the importance of a political solution in Syria. Within the
present context and balance of military powers, this means several things:
The Syrian crisis is protracted
The Syrian regime maintains its tenure
The recognition of the growing influence of Iran in the region (as talks were organized by
Russia, the US and Iran)
The complexity of the Syrian conflict makes it difficult to achieve any sustainable agreement,
especially that Syrian rebel factions are unified under one command, and are believed to
have different agendas and interests in Syria and the region. Russia looks at/perceives these
talks as a platform for a military exit strategy for its troops from Syria, and for entrenching its
political influence in the region; while Tehran and Turkey look at these talks as means to
consolidate their influence on the ground in Syria and secure common borders.
Thus, the rebel groups that have gathered around the table in the Astana Talks might find
themselves fighting each other again. The lack of a unified Syrian opposition front will make
any political progress almost impossible, especially since the Syrian regime has shown an
inclination for military solutions. In the meantime, Daesh in spite of its recent setbacks and
losses remains a serious threat and an unpredictable game-changer in Syria.
While Lebanon remains directly influenced by the consequences of the Syrian crisis in
general, it is believed that the conflict will not lead to any change in the present status quo
inside Lebanon. All parties seem to have accepted that the political authority in Lebanon
deals with day-to-day matters (such as economy and health,) while avoiding problematic
matters (such as Hezbollah’s military operations in Syria) until a final solution has been
reached at a regional level.
Conclusion and/or Recommendations:
Migration, asylum, and refugee-related issues must be approached as an ongoing
theme in Lebanon, regardless of the context of the conflict in neighboring Syria i.e.
within the context of regional turmoil; Lebanon is in dire need of a broad policy to
deal with unfolding developments in the future, including migration flows.
The Government should develop a comprehensive migration and refugee policy with
an appropriate administrative procedure in accordance with Lebanon’s human rights
List of References
Legal Status of Refugees from Syria: CHALLENGES AND CONSEQUENCES OF
International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council
Trapped in Lebanon: The alarming human rights and human security situation of
Syrian refugees in Lebanon – Report by Act for Human Rights (alef) and PAX
The General Directorate of the General Security
Migration Policy Center: Lebanon Profile:
Syria Regional Refugee Response: Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal
Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Lebanon
Strafor Enterprises

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