MENA research consultancy delivers report on Syrian internal displacement crisis

10 August 2018 4 min. read

The humanitarian and development research agency Middle East Consulting Solutions has tabled a report on the internal displacement crisis in Syria, forwarding a suite of recommendations to aid future resolutions. 

Middle East Consulting Solutions (MECS) is an on-the-ground research consultancy operating across the MENA region for clients in the humanitarian and development sectors, such as UN agencies, local and international NGO’s, research institutions and the public and private sector. Following a six-month research operation conducted within Syria until April this year, MECS has now released its report on the increasingly protracted situation of internally displaced Syrians.

With some five million refugees having fled the ongoing violence in Syria across international borders, those who have been forced from their homes but remain in the country can often be overlooked by the wider media – yet their numbers are as high as six and half million people and growing, placing considerable strain on their host communities in addition to the trauma suffered by the internal refugees.

Further complexities arise as to future resolutions when it comes to the question of return or resettlement post-conflict or of local integration, which may grow as a preference for displaced peoples the longer their state of limbo remains unresolved – and may also be a more viable longer-term option with respect to humanitarian aid. However, host communities are also party to any programme toward integration, and their stability and support capacities must also be considered.Percentage of internal displacement per year for selected Syrian host communitiesWith these complications in mind, the MECS research study sought to first understand the complex process of local integration within the context of protracted internal displacement, while also providing an in-depth analysis of the profiles, needs, intentions and push-and-pull factors for both the internally displaced refugees and the members of their respective hosting communities. To do so, MECS collected primary data from over 900 households with a mix of internally displaced and host populations – chiefly in the governorates of Idleb, Lattakia and Al Hasakeh.

The study, as outlined in the resulting report, ‘Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons in Syria’, found that the internally displaced generally had a strong desire to return to their own communities, despite the limited prospects of doing so in the short-term, with a corresponding low level interest in integrating into their current communities in the longer run – unless, according to the report, they can see immediate, tangible, and realistic opportunities for doing so, including having basic conditions such as safety and access to economic opportunities assured.

The report states; “For the majority of the assessed internally displaced Syrians, voluntary return or local integration in safety and dignity is currently not possible. Most IDPs have no other plan but to stay in their current location even though living conditions are increasingly dire, both for them, and for the host populations. Additionally, with different levels of access across population groups, there is a potential of increased tensions between the displaced and their host communities.”Potential of a return to home for internally displaced SyriansAlthough the comprehensive survey report outlines certain current variables between the assessed communities, the MECS study found no discernable patterns as to groups or categories based on household profile, intentions, plans, or the conditions for displaced persons to consider integration and the higher potential for integration, and neither as to differences between rural and urban populations or male or female-headed households.

The one crucial difference the study did reveal, however, was the impact of the duration of displacement on views to integration. “While IDPs seemed to be experiencing a growing availability of livelihoods and integration opportunities over time, their willingness to integrate would reach its apex after 3-4 years of displacement and start to drop after that,” the report said of its findings, derived through interviews with households and key informants.

In its concluding review of the obstacles to local integration, the MECS report recommends, broadly, that ‘following safety, security, and economic opportunities, the data indicates that ‘availability of shelter’ is an important consideration that affects the willingness of IDPs to integrate locally… Any efforts oriented to facilitate the local integration of displaced communities in Syria should focus on living standard and economic dynamics affecting livelihood and employment opportunities.”

Still, while a voluntary return to origin remains unlikely for the majority of internally displaced persons in Syria, the MECS report states; “External support with a sole purpose of promoting local integration should be approached with caution, if not avoided. The data has shown that most IDPs anticipate to have to stay in the current location of displacement – which is not the same as choosing to locally integrate.”