A new report released by Amnesty International Tuesday highlights how the lack of international funding for the Syrian crisis, coupled with Lebanese government regulations, is leading to the exploitation and abuse of women refugees in Lebanon. The report, titled “‘I want a safe place’: Refugee women from Syria uprooted and unprotected in Lebanon,” comes ahead of a major donor conference scheduled to take place in London on Feb. 4.
The report found that a lack of funding for aid distribution was leaving gaps in crucial assistance programs. As a result, around 70 percent of Syrian refugee families are living significantly below the Lebanese poverty line.
Also, in 2015 the Lebanese government placed new visa restrictions on refugees, making it difficult for them to renew their residency status and impossible to register with UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.
The report outlines how not having a valid visa leaves refugees, particularly women, at risk of exploitation and harassment, especially from people in positions of power, including landlords, employers and the police. Many fear arrest, detention or even deportation if they seek help from the authorities.
Amnesty found that Syrian women are regularly underpaid by employers and experience sexual and verbal harassment in the workplace, from landlords and in public spaces, among other issues.
“The combination of a significant shortage in international funding for the refugee crisis and strict restrictions imposed on refugees by the Lebanese authorities is fueling a climate in which refugee women from Syria are at risk of harassment and exploitation and are unable to seek protection from the authorities,” said Kathryn Ramsay, a gender researcher at Amnesty International.
A persistent shortage in donations for programs seeking to alleviate the Syria crisis has left major international organizations unable to address even the most basic needs of Syrian refugees. UNHCR had only 57 percent of the funds it needed for projects in Lebanon last year.
Amnesty International called on Lebanon to remove legal restrictions for Syrians and on international donors to pledge more money for the Syria crisis at the upcoming conference in London. “The world’s wealthiest countries, the EU, Gulf states and the USA, among others, all need to do much more to alleviate this crisis,” Ramsay said.