Sarah A Tobin
Chr Michelsen Institute
As this excellent book demonstrates, Jordan and Lebanon have emerged as safe havens for Syrian refugees but at a perceived and real cost: Syrians constitute 10 percent of Jordan's population and at least 25% of Lebanon's, overwhelming local institutions, services, and infrastructure. Each government fueled national discontent by limiting services to citizens even as they, along with international NGOs, appeared to provide them to Syrians. The context was ripe for widespread scapegoating of Syrians. With impressive breadth and depth, Baylouny demonstrates that scapegoating of Syrians did not work because its psychological benefit is outweighed by the real need for governmental provisions of basic needs. The grievances that could give rise to scapegoating – water usage in Jordan and electricity in Lebanon, among others – were experienced by the hosting communities as threats to livelihoods, which needed solutions. While animosity towards Syrians was irrelevant to the solving of daily problems, mobilizing respective governments was not. With detail and nuance, Baylouny elaborates a key intervention in 'refugee rentierism' employed through international refugee Compacts. The Compacts leverage the presence of Syrian refugees for international aid, which the governments also secure for domestic development. Citizens, thus, find that not only are their respective governments now capable of offering more and better services, they are also the very obstacles to their provision. Hosting refugees ultimately changes society – 'discourses, understandings of rights, and grievances, all of which will last well after the refugees have left' (p. 135). Lebanon and Jordan provide for very different national contexts in which the presence of Syrian refugees will alter their contours of similarity and difference long into the future. This important book will guide our understanding along the way.