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From Baghdad to Beirut: Iraqi Refugees’ Voices for Equity in Transit

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Presentation on theme: "From Baghdad to Beirut: Iraqi Refugees’ Voices for Equity in Transit"— Presentation transcript:

1 From Baghdad to Beirut: Iraqi Refugees’ Voices for Equity in Transit
Jihad Makhoul, Lena Torossian, Dima Dandachi and Yara Qutteina American University of Beirut, Lebanon

2 Study Aims To explore Iraqi refugees’
Experiences and living conditions Coping mechanisms

3 Background 60,000 Iraqis uprooted every month, 95% still in the Middle East Quantitative data Voices not heard No Iraqi camps UNHCR 2007

4 What should we know about Lebanon to help us understand the study?

5 Lebanon Post civil war economic decline, Beirut divided along religious sectarian lines [eastern, southern] 1951 Geneva Convention on protection of refugees declaration [not signed] Not ready to host more refugees Inadequate resources No domestic laws dealing with refugees & asylum seekers UNHCR: refugee status determination seeks solutions to resettlement papers

6 How did we collect and analyze our data?

7 Research Approach Qualitative Approach: Participants:
Informal interviews with welfare agencies 38 in-depth interviews, 5 focus groups, observations Conducted in colloquial Lebanese Arabic Thematic analysis: transcribed verbatim, coded, transferred onto spreadsheets, recurring themes.. Participants: Representatives of agencies serving Iraqi refugees Iraqi families and children [months-12 years in Leb] eastern and southern suburbs of Beirut

8 What aspects of the findings are presented today?

9 Findings.. Trail Life in Beirut Social Support Social Conditions
Paperwork Emotional turmoil Social Support

10 Trail: from Baghdad to Beirut
Legally Baghdad  Plane Eastern Suburbs of Beirut Illegally Baghdad  Syria Southern suburbs Beirut

11 Life in Beirut: Small unhealthy apartments, expensive rent, multiple moves “I swear to God, this is not the first apartment that we reside in. This is the fourth or fifth apartment, because we are many. The landlord doesn’t accept large families, he puts them out” (An Iraqi mother) Exploitation, Stigmatization, Discrimination “There are no good jobs, I worked in many jobs but they didn’t treat me well, they didn’t give me good money, they didn’t give me. I mean I worked in a job close by for 13 days and they didn’t give me money… I mean that dessert shop and he didn’t give me anything” (An 18 year old Iraqi woman) Suffering exacerbated by persecution “I am scared they would arrest us one day, I mean I am afraid that one day we will go on an outing, and then the police would arrest us and then make us go back to Iraq” (A father of six) pics

12 Inside an apartment in Choweifat

13 Paperwork 1. UNHCR paper: 2. Residency papers:
Not recognized by the State Important for settlement Humiliating Does not ensure human rights in Lebanon 2. Residency papers: Expensive work permit Require a Lebanese guarantor L

14 Way Out 3. Resettlement papers:
False hope, delays, frustration and ambiguity Slack global process Unclear immigration policies Contribute to family disintegration “I have been here for 12 years, how is it still being studied? 20 years to study a file?! This is ridiculous, I mean 70 staff in the agency need 20 years to study a file, if each one of them took a letter, the file would be completed in one week!” (A father who spend 12 years in Lebanon) “Once I went to ask about my file, and she told me to forget! I have a difficult psychological condition and she tells me to forget!” (A 42 year old father)

15 Psychosocial Well-being
Anxiety, depression, hopelessness, suicidal attempts “I am a diabetic; honestly this is due to all the work. I have a depression now. My son and I used to consult with the physician in ReStart. I would become very angry at them. I would become angry at the smallest thing and because I feel that I am the reason behind the file delay because I said the truth; I told them I was a military … Apparently the paperwork of a military is delayed… I never held a weapon in my life… I was calligrapher in the army” (60 year old head of household) Husband: “One day I woke up at 1:30 am and found that she had opened the curtains and had swollen all the pills.” Wife: “I woke up and poisoned myself, I took out the pills and swallowed them all… This life- I don’t want it!” Husband: “So if I didn’t wake up and I didn’t see her, if I didn’t do something about it, she would have been gone.”

16 What is striking in these findings?

17 Differences in Social Support and Coping between suburbs
Household Proximity Social Support Coping Agencies Outings Family Support Formal Informal Eastern Suburbs yes High Southern Suburbs no Low

18 Sud el Boushriyyeh, Eastern suburbs


20 What needs to be done to improve the well-being of the Iraqi refugees while in transit countries?

21 Implications… NGOs: State:
Use participatory research to evaluate services Train staff on interpersonal communication skills Offer rent assistance Facilitate creation of meeting spaces Increase social events/gatherings State: Integrate State services with NGO services Differentiate between war affected Iraqi refugees and illegal immigrants End detention and persecution of Iraqi refugees Allow temporary work permits

22 “Where is the respectful aid
“Where is the respectful aid? The coupon has nothing to do with it, I don’t want the coupon. I want a house, give me a house to live in, give me residency and I would work and earn a living for my children, I would live my happiness, I would live free!” (45 year old father of 4)

23 Thanks to.. Iraqi refugee families and youth Non-governmental agencies
IDRC, Ford Foundation Members of the Arab Families Working Group Ms Cristel Baasiri, Ms Fadia Shoucair, Ms Samia Kallas Work in progress-comments

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