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ECPR Virtual Methods School 2020

Searching for Shelter: Civil-Society Protection of Refugee Groups in Lebanon

Civil Society
Ethnic Conflict
Drew Mikhael
Queen's University Belfast
Drew Mikhael
Queen's University Belfast

Scholarly work on policymaking for refugees and migrants has examined the influential effects of institutions and political parties (Zapata-Barrero 2014), with the primacy of policy creation firmly located by the elected officials, governmental institutions and super-national organisations (Lavenex, 2001). Studies that have sought to explore vertical relationships between super-national, national and subnational policymaking (Caponio and Scholten 2017), have so far only included European states as case studies.

This paper goes beyond the valuable contribution to refugee literature focussing on extra-European case study of Lebanon. It examines subnational policymaking in contrast to national institutional policy prescription and asks: how civil society (CSO) and religious organisations institute and consolidate integrative refugee practices. The paper studies explores the vertical interactions between the national power-sharing and subnational institutions that lead to inclusionary policies amid the exclusionary national-level policy in relation to refugees. Furthermore, the paper examines the horizontal engagements between the civil society & religious organisations on the one hand, and religious political parties that often prioritise competing policy preferences.

Lebanon is an illustrative case study: it is a deeply divided society where conflict is managed via national consociational institutions. These are acknowledged to control, rather than interact with refugee populations with the intention of reducing intra-Lebanese tensions. Iraqi, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, are ethnically and linguistically similar to some groups at the core of Lebanese population but have suffered from a range of exclusionary policies at the national-level. But key CSOs (e.g. Migrant Community Centre) and religious organisations (e.g. the Chaldean church) have been able to implement programmes that offer legal protection from national institutions to Iraqis that other refugee groups do not enjoy. My paper offers a framework for analysing the variant influence of CSOs and churches on refugee policy and integration process taking place in a deeply divided and consociational setting.
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