Lebanon: Minister says country can no longer host refugees
A Syrian child stands in the snow in a refugee camp in the town of Arsal in the Lebanese Bekaa valley on December 13, 2013. (AFP/File)
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Lebanon should no longer be used as a resort for refugees, as it has paid the highest price for the war in neighboring Syria, Social Affairs Minister Rachid Derbas said Thursday.
"Lebanon and the region are facing the hardest times and we are the country which has suffered the most because of the Syrian crisis," Derbas said in remarks to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3).
The minister called on the international community to end the five-year Syrian war and facilitate the return of refugees.
"We hold the international community responsible for extinguishing the flames which have been burning in Syria for years...Lebanon should no longer be a resort [for refugees]. We call on the cessation of fighting and the creation of safe areas to encourage the Syrians to return home," he added.
Since the war erupted in March 2011, the U.N. refugee agency has registered around 1.1 million Syrian refugees. However, the Lebanese government puts the actual number at more than 1.5 million.
This influx of refugees, who have fled their homes since the civil war in Syria erupted in 2011, has added strain to Lebanon's already-poor infrastructure.
Derbas added that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's visit to Lebanon Thursday reflects the country's need for support in dealing with the refugee crisis.
Last month, Prime Minister Tammam Salam requested $11 billion in financial aid from world leaders during the London Donors' Conference to help Lebanon deal with the massive influx of Syrians. The Lebanese government has on previous occasions rejected calls from the international community to give Syrians permanent settlement in the country.
Derbas said that the refugee problem should not affect Lebanon's sovereignty and the country's future generations.