Why refugee influx threatens Lebanon, Jordan stability

Syria and neighbors

Global Public Square

By David Schenker, Special to CNN

Editor’s note:David Schenker is the Aufzien Fellow and director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed are his own. 

The self-immolation of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon last month is a harrowing reminder of the desperate circumstances of those who have fled the war. But the hardship extends beyond just Syrians. Today, Lebanon and Jordan provide sanctuary to one million and some 600,000 Syrian refugees, respectively – about 20 and 10 percent of their respective populations – and the social and economic stresses are taking a heavy toll. Worse, the prospect that many of these refugees might never return home threatens the long-term stability of these states.

Demography is a central problem for Lebanon. Syrian exiles are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, and the influx has skewed Lebanon’s delicate sectarian balance of Sunnis, Shiites, and…

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