Cultural and educational opportunities in refugee camps in Lebanon
- Migration and Forced Displacement
According to United Nations figures covering the period since 2014, roughly one in four inhabitants of Lebanon is a refugee. Lebanon's approximately four million citizens share their country with around 280,000 Palestinians, who have been living there for several decades, and roughly 1.2 million registered refugees from Syria. Germany, through its cultural relations and education policy, seeks to make an active contribution to the welfare of Syrian and Palestinian refugee communities in the Lebanese camps. How this can be done is the question that was addressed in 2015 in a research project run by guest researcher Leila Mousa as a collaboration between the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) and BICC.
Leila Moussa's study will be published by ifa in the autumn of 2015. The findings are based on fieldwork undertaken over several weeks in Lebanon. She conducted interviews with experts from intermediary organisations, local NGOs and foundations, UN agencies and embassies, as well as with artists, arts facilitators and journalists. The research also included workshops in Beirut, and a meeting of experts on the theme of "Culture and foreign policy in refugee camps" convened by BICC in Bonn on 30 June 2015.
The core conclusion of the project is that cultural expression is a basic human need and a human right that must not be denied to people living in refugee camps. Having experienced violence and hardship, the refugees then often face a difficult relationship to their host society in Lebanon and lack social and economic prospects. In this context, cultural activities represent far more than mere entertainment. They are an important means of articulating needs and criticism in circumstances where people are given so few opportunities to develop, participate or express themselves. It is enormously important, for both the Syrian and Palestinian refugee communities in Lebanon, for people to be able to communicate their own perspective on conflict, i.e. their conflict narrative. And they need to define or re-define their identities as well as maintain and pass on their cultural practices. Art and culture not only open an important space for dialogue and encounter in the refugee camps but could even offer opportunities for some artists to earn a living. Finally, cultural activities provide recreational spaces and can be hugely important for people dealing with trauma and suffering. All these aspects need to be considered if Germany's cultural relations and education policy is to serve refugees.