The World

There Are Now 1 Million Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, a Country of 4.5 Million People

Syrian refugees fill out paperwork at a registration center, one of many across Lebanon, in Tripoli on April 3, 2014.

Photo by Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

Lebanon reached a sad milestone this week after the 1 millionth Syrian refugee was registered in the country. Syria’s southwestern neighbor certainly isn’t the only country to absorb high numbers of people fleeing the ongoing civil war—Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt also have high numbers—but Lebanon’s influx may be the most demographically significant considering that the country’s population is only 4.5 million.

Lebanon already has significant populations of Iraqi and Palestinian refugees, and agencies were warning as far back as 2012 that the country’s capacity to absorb more people from Syria, most of whom fled with little money or means to support themselves, was waning. The country has for some time now had the highest per capita refugee population in the world.

Unlike its neighbors, Lebanon has refused to build refugee camps—the camps built for Palestinians have essentially become permanent settlements—but informal tent communities have sprung up. The influx of Syrians may also alter the country’s delicate sectarian balance—currently roughly evenly divided among Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians.

As has been clear for a while, this war isn’t just devastating Syria, it’s reshaping a region in significant ways.