8 January, 2015 (IRIN) - Syria's neighbours have tightened their restrictions on the entry of refugees in recent months, under the strain of hosting hundreds of thousands of people. While rights groups call for open borders, governments argue they need more support to continue supporting such high numbers of refugees.
In the meantime, fleeing Syrians have dwindling options. Lebanon’s decision on Monday to tighten restrictions on the entry of Syrian refugees is the latest in a series of measures across the Middle East.
In each of the neighbouring countries that accept refugees – Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – the past six months have seen higher barriers to entry for those fleeing the civil war.
The countries, which collectively host more than three million refugees, have complained that the influx has had a negative effect on their economies, while in some cases leading to increased insecurity. In Lebanon, Syrians now make up over a quarter of the population and the World Bank has estimated up to 170,000 Lebanese have been pushed into poverty by the influx.
While from the beginning of the crisis there have been reports of some restrictions in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, in recent months they have become more common. Neil Sammonds, researcher on Syria, Lebanon and Jordan for Amnesty International, said Western states should better support Syria's neighbours to keep their borders open. "While there are growing concerns at the seemingly ever-tightening restrictions being imposed on new entrants, it is clear that Lebanon's resources are over-stretched, that other neighbouring countries are taking similar negative measures and that the international community must do much, much more both to assist those countries' efforts to host so many refugees and also to open their own doors to people fleeing Syria."
The Lebanese decision comes the same week the UN announced that Syria is now the origin of the largest number of registered refugees globally – overtaking Afghanistan, which has been top for 30 years. The decision doesn’t include Palestinians, who are not under the remit of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Below is a timeline of some of the events and restrictions that have made it harder for Syrian refugees in recent months.