The Spring Reception Exhibition in Byblos provides an opportunity for Syrian refugee women to cooperate with their Lebanese counterparts and develop their lives in Lebanese society.
Syrian refugee women are taking part in the Spring Reception Exhibition in Byblos, Lebanon, by presenting their hand made produce. Such as embroidery, handicraft and the preparation of food.
For the Syrian women, spring in Byblos reminds them of spring at home. “There is nothing better than [Syrian] spring”, said one Syrian lady. “I wish all the time that everything returns to as it once was”.
The Spring Reception Exhibition provides Lebanese and Syrian women with an opportunity to cooperate and to develop each other’s capabilities and provide them with a sense of empowerment. “There is great harmony, we do not feel that we are not in our country”, remarked one lady towards the initiative in which she was taking part. The initiative provides a method for Syrian women to develop their lives in Lebanese society.
Syrian women are also able to bring a new culture to the exhibition. “They have recipes that we do not have”, a Lebanese chef at the exhibition said. The women from both countries have been able to teach each other new mixes and new recipes, which in turn enriches the experience for those visiting the exhibition. This cultural activity promotes tourism and economic activity in the city.
Despite the existence of positive initiatives to integrate Syrian refugees into Lebanese society, calls for the repatriation of refugees to Syria have increased. The up-coming general election has amplified rhetoric from Lebanon’s politicians to hasten the repatriation process.
In Syria, many areas that were previously under ISIS or rebel control have now been cleared and stabilised permitting many refugees or internally displaced people to return. As a result, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) statistics within Lebanon show that for the first time, refugee numbers have dropped below one million. But this figure only accounts for those people registered with the UNHCR. Lebanon, on the other hand, believes the figure is closer to one-and-a-half million, when taking into account “illegal” refugees who have not registered.
Repatriation of refugees to Syria is strongly opposed by the international community due to widespread fighting still ongoing within the country. A report written by the Lebanese Centre for Policy Studies has cautioned that the government does not yet have the capacity to develop a repatriation plan. Furthermore, without a concise plan, non-state actors could undertake refugee repatriation without state involvement or international oversight. Indeed, in August 2017, Hezbollah in Lebanon carried out the largest unsanctioned refugee repatriation since the war began.