This presentation was given by Tamirace Fakhoury at the Refugee Hosts International Conference. The presentation explored how Lebanon’s formal and informal actors, namely government agencies, political parties and representatives of local communities, have negotiated on the issue of Syrian refugee return.

Refugee return, geopolitics and war imaginaries

by Tamirace Fakhoury, Lebanese American University

This presentation unpacked the following questions:  how have some of Lebanon’s key governance actors cooperated and clashed on the issue of refugee return? How have they capitalized on the politics of return to maximize their gains in the context of Lebanon’s political system, and in the Syrian conflict more broadly? And how do their fragmented refugee return agendas paradoxically “cohere” in constituting and serving state authority?

The presentation argues that various sites of authority have drawn on the politics of refugee repatriation as a “balance-of-power” game.  More specifically, they have sought to use it as bargaining leverage for alliance formation and external recognition in the context of Syria’s conflict, and for acquiring popularity in Lebanon’s divided politics.  The presentation further argues that the Lebanese state, rather than being a weak actor, thrives on these fragmented agendas to reach some policy objectives such as avoiding international pressure to develop norms related to refugee return. In so doing, the presentation debunks the claim that actors’ disparate refugee return agendas merely reflect fractured politics. Rather, it explores how dispersed agendas over the return of displaced individuals are rooted in war imaginaries, and intricate relationships of power underpinning and constituting state authority. These agendas further reflect broader geopolitical and historical tensions at the heart of state formation and of the Middle East regional system.


If you found this piece of interest, please visit the recommended reading list below:

Adams, H. (2018) Syrian and Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon and the Emergent Realities of Return

Al-Mehdi, D. (2019) The Tribulations, and Deportations, of Syrian Guests in Turkey

Berg, M. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) Hospitality and Hostility towards Migrants: Global Perspectives—An Introduction

Carpi, E. (2018) Assessing Urban-Humanitarian Encounters in Northern Lebanon

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) Anti-Syrian banners and graffiti in context: racism, counter-racism and solidarity for refugee in Lebanon

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) Disrupting Humanitarian Narratives?

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2016) ‘Repressentations of Displacement in the Middle East,’ Public Culture, 28(3).

Loris-Rodionoff, C. (2017) Hope, Resilience and Uncertainty: A day with displacement Syrians in Southern Turkey

Steinberg, A. (2019) Sustaining Protracted Displacements: A brief history of labor policy for Jordan’s refugees

Timberlake, F. (2019) Home-making and home-taking: living spaces for women refugees in Grande Synthe

Trotta, S. (2017)  Faith-Based Humanitarian Corridors to Italy:  A Safe and Legal Route to Refuge

Wafai, J. (2018) Al-Mustaqbal in the Space of Refuge

Weatherhead, K. (2017) Thinking Through the Concept of ‘Welcoming’

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