If you’re confused, don’t worry, everybody is confused here: Refugee governance and the politics of uncertainty in Lebanon
InRGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019
RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019, 28 augustus 2019
Article in monograph or in proceedings
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RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019
SubjectNON-RU research; Onderzoek niet-RU
Lebanon has the highest per capita number of refugees worldwide. The country’s 1.5 million Syrian refugees face a ‘no-policy-policy’ that rejects the establishment of official refugee camps and refuses to give them formal refugee status. A stringent entry and residency regime has left 70% of Syrian refugees without legal residency status, making them extremely vulnerable to exploitation. This situation of imposed informality and systematic unpredictability reproduces the position of Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees. With reference to an increasingly illusory ‘right to return,’ these have faced seven decades of ‘permanent temporariness’ in what is often called a perpetual ‘state of exception.’ Such institutional ambiguity is routinely explained as the consequence of capacity problems that stem from state fragility or hybridity and the unprecedented scale of refugee crises. This paper, however, argues that institutional ambiguity is not merely an effect of governance, but can also feature as a governance strategy. It explores the ways in which institutional ambiguity is produced and/or maintained as an instrument to pacify refugees. Building on critical policy analysis and qualitative case-studies, the paper conceptualizes these defining dynamics of Lebanon’s refugee governance as a ‘politics of uncertainty’ that institutionalizes ambiguity, liminality, and exceptionalism to control, exploit, or expel refugees.
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