Lebanon PM asks for funding to ease Syrian refugee crisis
Lebanon is now home to over 1.5 million Syrian refugees fleeing the neighboring conflict (File/AFP)
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Prime Minister Tammam Salam hoped on Tuesday that the international community is aware of Lebanon's huge financial needs to confront the burden of refugees.
“The refugees are affecting our economy and security ... We call for more funding to confront the repercussions of the refugee crisis,” Salam said at the opening of the Berlin conference on Syrian refugees, which was attended by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas.
In addition to placing huge strains on the country's hospitals, schools and other institutions, the refugees also are taking jobs from Lebanese workers, creating resentment, Salam said.
"The massive influx of Syrians into poor communities totally unprepared to cope with such a sudden burden has had a destabilizing effect, with a variety of challenges and threats that constitute a fertile ground for extremism and violence," he said.
Jordan warned of similar issues at the conference which was attended by foreign ministers and other representatives from 40 nations to coordinate international support for the refugees from the Syrian civil war.
Guests included the head of the United Nations refugee agency, Antonio Guterres.
Turkey's deputy foreign minister, Naci Koru, noted that his country had spent some $4 billion on dealing with Syrian refugees so far, and received only $250 million from the international community.
“We have big challenges, including the crisis of refugees that Lebanon and neighboring countries are suffering from,” Salam told reporters before attending the one-day conference.
“We should cooperate with the international community,” he said in hopes that it would be “aware that Lebanon needs huge financial support” to confront such a burden.
“The Lebanese are providing all what the Syrians need … But we adopted a practical measure to deal with the refugees,” the PM said ahead of talks with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Steinmeier stressed the need to focus not only on the refugees' humanitarian needs but also on shoring up the stability of neighboring states grappling the influx.
"Whoever has seen how much, in Lebanon for example, the public health system, the schools, the water supply and much else is utilized by the 1.5 million refugees, knows or can guess how much of an explosive force that really is for the social structures of a country like Lebanon," Steinmeier told reporters.
The Lebanese government announced last week that it will ask the U.N. to stop registering refugees who enter the country from war-torn Syria.
It formalized a decision to all but close its borders to them.
Only Syrians whose files had been approved by the government would be given refugee status in Lebanon.
Lebanon is hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees, an enormous strain for a country with a population of just four million.
The UNHCR has regularly urged the international community to provide Lebanon with greater assistance to tackle the influx.
The agency has also called on other countries to open their doors to fleeing Syrians to ease the burden on Lebanon and other neighboring states.
More than three million Syrians have fled their country since the uprising that began in March 2011, with most taking shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
Ahead of the conference on Syrian refugees, the International Support Group for Lebanon held a meeting in Salam's presence.
Participants recognized with grave concern the tremendous burden Lebanon continues to bear in hosting the refugees.
They noted the recent decision of the Lebanese cabinet concerning its Syrian refugee policy. They encouraged the government and UNHCR, with other U.N. agencies and partners, to cooperate closely to promote the effective management of the refugee presence.
The participants also recognized the security related implications of the crisis that threaten the safety of host communities and refugees alike and the efforts of the Lebanese government to mitigate them.
They welcomed ongoing international assistance to address Lebanon’s security concerns and underlined the continuing urgent need for international support to the Lebanese army and the security forces.
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