Lebanon tightens restrictions on Syrian refugees
Fatima (C) a Syrian refugee widow, who lost her husband during the fighting in Homs, and her daughters have their Ramadan dinner in their makeshift room in a neighborhood of the Lebanese coastal city of Tripoli (AFP/JOSEPH EID)
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The Lebanese government imposed new entry controls on Syrians on Tuesday and said it would begin shutting down unlicensed businesses as refugees continue to pour into the country.
As of July 22, the UN says over 633,000 Syrians escaping their war-torn country have crossed into Lebanon.
Ministers said they had no intention of closing the border to refugees fleeing the devastating 28-month conflict in their homeland.
But they said that in future they would recognize as refugees only those fleeing parts of Syria that have been wracked by violence.
"There is an influx that is not motivated by humanitarian needs," Economy Minister Nicolas Nahas told AFP.
"The security forces are therefore going to start checking whether those arriving at the border come from a war-ravaged area before regarding them as refugees. Those who do not will be granted entry as ordinary visitors."
Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Fawr said that from next week special teams would start shutting down the unlicensed Syrian-run businesses that have mushroomed, particularly in the eastern Bekaa valley region near the border.
"A security service team recorded 377 illegal businesses in just six villages in the Bekaa," he said.
"They have the right to work to feed themselves on building sites or other sectors but not in trade or in businesses that require a permit."
Many Syrian refugees are forced to sleep rough on the streets because they cannot afford to rent a room to live.
But the presence of over 600,000 alongside a population of just four million has sparked mounting friction.
A recent opinion poll found that 54 percent of respondents believed Lebanon should close its doors to the refugees.
A full 82 percent said that the refugees were taking jobs from Lebanese