Lebanon's PM denies Kerry warned of refugee camps inside Lebanon
Sources close to the PM ruled out in comments published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, informed Salam during a meeting last week that his country rejects the establishment of camps for Syrians on Lebanese territories.
“The official Lebanese stance is to establish camps outside Lebanese territories or in buffer zones along the border with Syria,” the sources pointed out.
Kerry arrived in Lebanon on June 4 for a short visit where he met with Speaker Nabih Berri, Salam and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.
More than a million Syrians have fled their war-torn country for Lebanon in the past three years, according to the United Nations.
Dana Suleiman, of the United Nations refugee agency, stressed that the “establishment of camps isn't tangible as the issue requires an official Lebanese stance.”
Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said in remarks to the newspaper that the state didn't take yet any final decision regarding the matter.
“The cabinet has yet to agree on the matter,” Derbas pointed out.
The minister noted that the “entrance of new Syrians into Lebanese territories is linked to the security situation in the areas that they hail from.”
The refugee influx into Lebanon has burdened the country's weak economy, with politicians on all sides calling for measures to limit the flow.
Lebanon has not signed the Convention on Refugees, and refers to Syrians forced out of their country by war as "displaced."
The authorities say the actual number of Syrians in Lebanon is far higher than the nearly 1.1 million accounted for by UNHCR.
Lebanon has frequently complained it lacks the necessary resources to cope with them, and that the labor market is struggling to accommodate them.