Construction workers in Beirut, Sunday, April 2, 2017. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Despite fiery political rhetoric and recent crackdowns by the Labor Ministry and local municipalities, there is still little hard data to support or refute the claim that refugees are taking Lebanese jobs in significant numbers.As Syrian refugees began to enter Lebanon in large numbers in 2011, increasingly arriving in family groups, the Lebanese government began to implement more stringent restrictions on the activities of Syrian nationals.Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merehbi told The Daily Star that an increase in Syrian nationals in the labor market had driven down wages, but again didn't cite specific figures or data to back up this claim.Because of this division, with Syrian nationals typically occupying jobs that Lebanese workers either can't or won't take, Chaaban argued that there is actually very little significant competition between the two workforces.According to Azour, the focus on refugees obscures various endemic and macroeconomic issues in the Lebanese economy that may have a larger impact on the labor market.Blaming unemployment and poor conditions solely on the influx of refugees, she said, creates the illusion that these issues would disappear if refugees simply returned home. Azour maintains, however, that these issues are not necessarily directly tied to the presence of refugees.
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