Carnegie’s Lina Khatib talked to BBC World Service Newshour about the presence of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Khatib presented the situation on the ground, explaining the economic and social strains in Lebanon:

“Syrian refugees constitute around a third of the current population in Lebanon. And they, unfortunately, have been seen as a potential cause of instability in the country by many, as well as have caused a strain in the economy, in the sense that wages have gone down, rents have gone up. So, even the people who were sympathetic to the presence of the Syrian refugees at the beginning of the crisis are now complaining about their presence.”

The Syrian crisis in Lebanon cuts across sectarian lines, explained Khatib, saying that the Lebanese see the Syrian refugees as “taking jobs away from the Lebanese, and as potentially joining extremist groups. These problems, of course, have a grain of truth. However, they are also exaggerated to a degree. The key problem with sectarianism is that ninety percent of the Syrian refugees are Sunni, which means a huge hike in the number of Sunnis present in Lebanon today, which would further down the line have an impact on the political status quo in the country, where these people to be made permanent residents and citizens in Lebanon.”

When asked about the Syrian conflict spilling over into Lebanon, Khatib highlighted the belated response of the Lebanese government, saying that it is “reacting four years too late. It should have had a policy from the very beginning that would have ensured the livelihoods of the Syrian refugees, as well as their host communities which would have prevented them joining these kinds of extremists groups—largely out of despair—in the first place.”

This interview was broadcast on BBC World Service Newshour.