[Published here on March 11, 2014]
The unprecedented rate at which the number of Syrian refugees in the region has grown has caught the world’s attention. After nearly four years of unrest, roughly 1.17 million Syrians are currently registered as refugees in Lebanon — and the number continues to creep up. But an often underreported and misunderstood figure is the number of those who have had their refugee status deactivated. During 2013 and 2014, at least 137,000 Syrians lost active refugee status with UNHCR, the agency managing the international response to the refugee crisis. Vague and noncommittal statements to the press by UNHCR, coupled with sudden and at times brash government announcements on the topic, have added to the confusion. With growing government involvement in registration and deactivation, human rights agencies have expressed concern that Syrian refugees will not continue receiving appropriate protection in Lebanon.