Five years after the conflict in Syria began, the situation for the almost four million refugees living across the Middle East, and many of the communities who are generously hosting them, is increasingly defined by an unfolding shelter crisis. Those who have escaped the violence in Syria are struggling to find basic shelter for their families. Host communities are also severely affected as they are forced to compete with refugees to access services or secure a roof over their heads.
This is creating a strain on inter-communal relations, with the risk of further tensions as the crisis goes on. Supporting the countries that neighbour Syria to address the shelter needs of both refugees and local communities is critical. Local housing markets and municipal infrastructure are unable to cope.
Rent is the single highest expenditure for the majority of refugees, representing up to 90 per cent of their monthly household income. A growing proportion of refugees depend on external assistance and struggle to pay rent because of difficulties in establishing livelihoods.
In both Jordan and Lebanon, documentation related to housing, such as rental contracts, is a requirement for refugees to legally remain in these countries in line with national legislation. It also affects their ability to access basic services. Without such documentation, many refugees fear deportation back to Syria and so limit their movements, or adopt other negative coping strategies, including those that can in some cases impact negatively on the security of host nations.
As the situation becomes more desperate, more refugees from Syria will have little option but to return to their war-torn country, or attempt to join the tens of thousands of Syrians who have already risked their lives at sea to reach European Union countries. To help address these challenges, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) recommends the following actions.
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