Statelessness in Beirut and Mount Lebanon

Statelessness in Beirut and Mount Lebanon

6 December 2023

Over a third of Lebanon’s total estimated stateless population has now been mapped, Siren Associates and Intersos announced Wednesday at the release of their new report exploring the extent of the issue in Beirut and Mount Lebanon.

The study identified 5,254 stateless individuals living in these two regions, with a further 6,302 found previously to be living in Tripoli and Akkar. There are approximately 27,000 stateless people across Lebanon.

The consequences

Statelessness, denoting a lack of nationality, leaves individuals vulnerable and grappling with significant daily challenges. The study uncovered growing vulnerabilities, which have been exacerbated by Lebanon’s multidimensional financial and socioeconomic crisis.

Just 56% of stateless children in Beirut and Mount Lebanon currently attend school, compared to 83% of Lebanese children. Among the adult stateless population, significant demographic disparities in access to education exist. Seventy five percent of stateless Dom in Lebanon have been denied a school education, compared to 10% of stateless Druze, for example.

Healthcare is also affected by statelessness. Forty four percent of stateless respondents have access to healthcare, compared to 61% of Lebanese respondents. Differences in the density of civil society organisations offering aid services mean that considerable local disparities exist.

While employment levels between Lebanese and stateless people are roughly similar overall (58% compared to 55%), stateless people were found to take home considerably less. Housing insecurity is also an issue for stateless people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, with 34% living under the threat of eviction.

Compounding vulnerabilities

The study found that gender, disability and ethnicity exacerbate one’s experience of statelessness.

Stateless men are employed at almost three times the rate of stateless women. Women’s salaries also consistently fall behind men’s, and stateless women’s limited access to education hampers their ability to improve their socio-economic situation.

Stateless people living with disabilities face extra challenges accessing healthcare and education, with medical and social support increasingly targeted at Lebanese people as the economic crisis drags on.

The Dom, accounting for 40% of the overall stateless population in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, face additional stigmatisation. This results in them having worse access to healthcare, lower salaries and higher rates of underage marriage than their non-Dom counterparts.

Resolving statelessness

A lack of awareness of the causes and consequences of statelessness in the country, and misconceptions about the political implications of addressing it have delayed any meaningful action to address the issue in Lebanon.

Non-registration by parents remains the primary cause of statelessness, accounting for 48% of all cases across Greater Beirut, Mount Lebanon, Tripoli and Akkar. The new report also found that Lebanon’s abusive Kafala sponsorship system is a driver of statelessness. Migrant domestic workers living under it face significant obstacles to obtaining their rights and accessing state services. As a result, migrant domestic workers mother 18% of the total non-registered children in the area.

Despite legislative proposals in 2020 to streamline registration procedures for nonregistered persons, this initiative has not been pursued. Concurrently, recent attempts to restrict naturalisation pose additional barriers to the acquisition of nationality, particularly for non-registered children.

“Three waves of research into the issue show that statelessness in Lebanon is a minority issue that need not be so polarising,” said Theodore Caponis, Siren’s Research Lead. “It has devastating consequences for those trapped outside the system, and potentially destabilising effects if left unaddressed. There is no reason to delay action further. The research shows that there are numerous avenues for action. An incremental approach will have immediate positive outcomes that can contribute to Lebanon’s long-term stability.”