How has the inundation of Syrian refugees into Lebanon impacted the country?

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Rabil's brief book discusses the inundation of refugees from Syria into Lebanon and their impact on the host country's demography, stability, security, and infrastructure. His well-researched book considers the long-term implications for Lebanon of close to two million Syrian and Palestinian refugees who constitute about one-third of the country's population and who jeopardize its survival as a state.

With the goal of painting "a clear picture of the unfolding double tragedy taking shape in Lebanon," Rabil focuses on the consequences for a country that has still not yet recovered from the trauma of a protracted civil war (1976-90) and extensive foreign meddling. The new Syrian refugees also add to the burden of the unresolved 70-year-old Palestinian refugee question.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon provides excellent statistics about the pace of Syrian refugee arrival in Lebanon, their geographical distribution, and living conditions. Rabil notes with alarm the deplorable conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon's most vulnerable regions, in the Biqaa and the north. He attributes their impoverishment to the sheer magnitude of the refugee problem, lack of foreign funding, an unsympathetic Lebanese government, and sluggish bureaucracy. The refugee influx has affected every corner of Lebanon.

Despite its usefulness, the book has one major fault: Nearly one-third is allocated to refugees and terrorism. Terrorism cannot be overlooked, but the fact remains that Lebanon is among the safest countries in the Middle East. Its record combating terrorism compares favorably with many European countries, probably because it is not a primary target for Islamist groups. Rabil establishes this by showing the scant linkages between Syrian refugees and terrorist organizations. But it would have been more useful to focus on the untoward effects of the refugees on the delicate Lebanese political formula.

Hilal Khashan
American University of Beirut