Institute for Migration Studies (IMS)

Projects and Programs

Ongoing Projects

The Impact of Gender Identity on Access to Healthcare Services for Refugees in Lebanon’s Northern Regions 

In partnership with the Center for Immigrant, Refugee and Global Health at the City University of New York awarded the Brown University CHRHS Research Seed Grant 2022

While there is progress in improving refugee healthcare in Lebanon, largely through the support of international humanitarian actors and the efforts of national health authorities, the healthcare system as it currently stands is increasingly discriminatory and complex. LGBTQI+ refugees and women in Lebanon continue to be at risk of being subjected to violence, abuse, and marginalization – sometimes at the hands of people from within their own communities. For those at a particularly vulnerable intersection (trans women refugees for instance), the perils are often magnified. The multiple, ongoing crises have dramatically impacted local humanitarian programming as well as the ability to expand outreach to meet intersectional needs. The profound lack of transparency from the Lebanese government, coupled with donor fatigue on refugee issues, has made it increasingly difficult for organizations to demonstrate impact and garner support for funding, particularly for vulnerable groups within the community. These realities have pushed women and LGBTIQ+ refugees further down the list of communities who receive targeted healthcare and tailored support. The research aims to answer the question: How has gender identity impacted access to healthcare services in Tripoli and Akkar since 2019 for the registered refugee community?

Twice the Threat: Gender Identity, Refugee Status and Freedom of Movement in Lebanon

In partnership with MOSAIC MENA awarded the UCLA Williams Institute LGBTI Global Small Grant 2022

In June 2022, Lebanon’s Minister of Interior gave “urgent” instructions to security forces to stop gatherings of the LGBTIQ community, following what he referred to as pressure from religious institutions. The orders followed what the Minister referred to as “calls on social media to organize parties and events promoting homosexuality in Lebanon, and following communication from religious figures rejecting the spread of this phenomenon. This phenomenon is contrary to the habits and customs of our society and religious principles, and personal freedoms cannot be invoked.” Lebanon’s ISF were instructed to “immediately take the necessary measures to prevent any type of celebration, meeting or gathering” by the LGBTIQ community. LGBTQI+ refugees in Lebanon continue to endure extreme forms of violence, discrimination, stigmatization, and isolation in the “safe” places they seek. The physical and mental violence they report is severe and continues to be perpetrated by both refugees from within their communities and by members of host communities, as shown by many testimonies from refugees. This study will look into the different ways this decision (later revoked), coupled with already long-standing restrictions on the mobility/movement of the country’s refugees, has added an additional layer of insecurity within the LGBTIQ+ refugee community. The study will focus on the Beirut and Greater Beirut areas. As it is the capital, and the majority of services/support that the refugee community needs is centralized there, it is also selected for its social and political significance. While the LGBTIQ community has faced discrimination in the past, the latest decision comes at a pivotal time in the country’s political and economic history – whereby tension between different factions of the community (in the areas of gender or in the areas of refugee vs. host community) are intensifying amid competition over livelihoods and resources.

Growing Up Uprooted: Experiences of Marginalization and Agency in Shaping the Identity of Palestinian Youth in Lebanon

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon face numerous structural restrictions that are all-encompassing, impacting the political, economic, social and humanitarian spheres of their lives. The systematic restrictions imposed on Palestinians are one of the main causes of the social exclusion and marginalization Palestinians suffer from. Moreover, most Palestinians in Lebanon live in dire conditions, in overcrowded, marginalized and economically depressed camps; the image which resides in the Lebanese collective consciousness is a negative one. Evidence points to the fact that prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion have a negative effect on the social functioning of individuals, which can result in lowered self-esteem and an inadequate, general sense of personal identity, especially in adolescents and emerging adults. Thus, this research aims to explore how Palestinian adolescents and emerging adults living in Lebanon develop their sense of self and self-identity in the context of social exclusion, discrimination and marginalization. The study also aims to explore coping mechanisms used by Palestinians to survive social exclusion, stigma, marginalization and negative stereotypes. To achieve this, the research will focus on the Mar Elias and Burj Al Barajneh camps.

Past Projects

Democracy and Human Rights: Syrian Refugee Youth in Lebanon 2021

In partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Based on a survey carried out among Syrian refugees in Lebanon aged between the ages of 16 and 30, this study found that the priorities of Syrian refugee youth in the country were largely rooted in their socio-economic standing and that of their households. This ultimately serves as a push factor influencing their desire to leave the country and defend their rights. It also found that the compounded crises in Lebanon (economic, political, humanitarian and health) have had a profound impact on the identity, self-expression and psychosocial well-being of Syrian youth, as well as their ability to express themselves. In the current climate in Lebanon, questions surrounding refugee youth’s livelihoods, health and well-being have centered on the ongoing decline of the country’s economy, the worsening living conditions, as well as questions around migration, human rights and freedoms — particularly for the country’s young people. The crises have relegated young people’s voices, needs and priorities to the back seat, with essentially no government policies fostering or reinforcing their economic and political participation. Local NGOs, international humanitarian organizations and academic institutions have stepped up to fill this void. Essentially, there are no safe civic spaces for young people to voice their views, express themselves freely or integrate into a healthy society. Excluding Syrian refugees from national and formal systems increases their vulnerability, reduces their quality of life and limits their future plans. This study, therefore, demonstrates how national policies of exclusion, coupled with the Lebanese government’s strategic in difference towards the refugee communities it hosts, generates new forms of vulnerability and imbalances of power — namely between refugees and landlords, employers and local authorities who exploit refugees for their own gains. This study also highlights that the well-being of the refugee community de-pends strongly on their empowerment and their inclusion in legal structures/ service provision.

Access the study in English and Arabic.

The Gender Dimensions of Sexual Violence Against Migrant Domestic Workers in Post-2019 Lebanon

In partnership with Egna Legna Besidet

In December 2020, the Lebanese Parliament passed the landmark Law 205 against sexual harassment that could see perpetrators spend up to four years in prison and pay fines up to fifty times the minimum wage. The law additionally affords protection to both the victims and any witnesses who testify against the accused. While the law was applauded as a step forward for sexual harassment victims, it excludes an important faction of the community — migrant domestic workers. The law falls short of international standards by addressing sexual harassment solely as a crime and neglecting to complement this law with labor law reforms, monitoring and civil remedies. This research focuses on the various forms of sexual violence either protected or enabled under the Kafala system. It aims to depict the incessant violations this type of system has produced. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 913 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. A variety of multifaceted, mixed design methods were used to collect information during the write up of this report, all of which are participatory, inclusive and target group sensitive where needed. These methods ensured that the findings were derived from a collective contribution from a wide range of target groups, triangulated and validated, and that gender considerations were integrated into the data collection and analysis methods. Primarily, these methods included: (1) Desk/Policy Review and (2) In-Depth Key Informant Interviews. Whilst asked about whether or not they had survived at least one incident of sexual harassment during their employment or stay in Lebanon, 68% of respondents informed the study that they had. According to respondents, various forms of sexual harassment included: (1) inappropriate staring or leering in a sexual manner; (2) sexually suggestive comments/jokes/name-calling; (3) intrusive questions about your sex life/physical appearance that were offensive; (4) someone showing his/her private parts/half or fully-naked body offensively; (5) unwelcome touching, hugging, kissing or other inappropriate physical contact; (6) sexually explicit calls or messages; (7) repeated or inappropriate invitations to dates; (8) sexually explicit pictures, posters or other material; (9) actual or attempted rape or sexual assault; (10) video/photo taking of survivors of a sexual nature; (11) requests or pressure for sex or other sexual acts; and/or (12) other forms of sexual harassment. 56.2% of the sample (513 women) insisted that they had experienced at least one of the aforementioned forms of sexual assault, while 11.7% (107 women) confirmed that they had experienced sexual assault, but weren’t willing to describe their experiences in detail. The variety in nationality and race across the sample presented important findings pertaining to ill-treatment, fetishization and violence each group of women faced. In addition to an overall sense of racism experienced by black MDWs, hierarchy within the MDWs’ community presents itself in various forms-even at the early stages of recruitment at the agency. Undocumented MDWs are left powerless in terms of reporting sexual abuse and therefore, are at the mercy of the aggressor. Navigating the country’s legal, cultural and social landscapes without documentation or a legal residency permit has become increasingly difficult in recent years, as this has laid the foundation for exploitation and abuse in the areas of: (1) paying less than what MDWs deserve; (2) taking advantage of their legal standing to make them work longer hours; (3) threatening to report them to the authorities if they object; and (4) sexual harassment in all forms.

Read the full study here.