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IRIN: Syrians struggle with employment in Lebanon (but they do have the right to work)

December 24, 2012

IRIN today published an article about the meager economic prospects for the Syrian refugees flooding into Lebanon. It’s entirely on the money in terms of the human consequences of this kind of mass forced migration, and of course of the Syrian civil war. But it misses some important context.

At least the Syrians have the right to work in Lebanon.

Lebanon has historically restricted the professions in which Palestinian refugees can work. And for the Sudanese, Iraqi and smattering of other nationalities who have sought refuge in Lebanon (many of whom are still there) there is typically no right to work at all. That’s on top a decade of mass detention and deportation of refugees and asylum-seekers.

The Syrians are suffering, and they are not lucky. But the fact that there’s now public attention to their suffering without this context and without acknowledging that others have suffered before them (and are suffering with them now) represents one of the many ways that publicity tends to distort refugee policy.

We pay attention to the refugees of the month (and this month it’s Syrians). Some money and support will follow, though it will still be inadequate to the cause. But what about the refugees whose plight is not on the front page?

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