Lebanon's response to the Syrian Refugee crisis – Institutional ambiguity as a governance strategy

N.M. Stel, Jessy Nassar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In comparison with other regional host countries Lebanon's response to the Syrian refugee crisis is characterized by a remarkable degree of institutional ambiguity. Government policy has centered on the prohibition of formal refugee camps and adopted regulations with regard to registration, residence, and work which drive refugees into illegality. This is partly the result of the chaotic and overwhelming nature of any refugee crisis, which is only reinforced by the Lebanese government's limited resources and capacities and the country's dysfunctional political system. However, institutional ambiguity in the context of the Lebanese response to the Syrian refugee crisis is not merely contingent. Departing from agnotology theory, this article demonstrates that there is also a strategic component to the institutional ambiguity that now determines the life of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. On the basis of fieldwork among Syrian refugee communities, elaborate policy analysis, and an extensive literature review the article reveals the political utility of maintaining uncertainty and precariousness. These insights have profound implications for the analysis of refugee politics and the formulation of policy recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages10
JournalPolitical Geography
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Syrian refugee crisis
  • Lebanon
  • Institutional ambiguity
  • Informality
  • Agnotology


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