Lebanon’s refugee crisis does not match the familiar image of vast, centralized tent camps and armies of foreign aid organizations. It is nowhere, and everywhere. Displaced Syrians seem to fill every nook and cranny: half-finished cinder block houses, stables, crowded apartments.
What really makes refugees politically radioactive is a painful national memory. Palestinians poured into Lebanon in 1948 and 1967, fleeing conflicts with Israel. Their arrival stoked sectarian divisions that helped ignite civil war. More than 400,000 Palestinians still live here, in camps with pockets of poverty and extremism where violence periodically erupts.The Economist has the following assessment about the demographic impact thus far:
So far the fighting has claimed 70,000 or more lives; tens of thousands are missing. The regime has locked up 150,000-200,000 people. More than 2m are homeless inside Syria, struggling to find food and shelter. Almost 1m more are living in squalor over the border.At this point it is impossible to tell how this will play out, but it seems reasonable to expect that the demographics of the region, not just the politics, will be permanently altered by all of this.