BEIRUT — Responding to an official communication from the Lebanese government saying that the country is no longer able to handle the presence of Syrian refugees, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) responded calling on Lebanon to "continue upholding principles of refugee protection" and to the international community to provide more support to Lebanon to manage the refugees' presence.
Here's what we know:
• On Saturday, during a meeting with the representative in Lebanon of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ayaki Ito, Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar told Ito that the government's official position is that while "Lebanon respects the principle of refusing any forced return of the displaced, the situation is untenable and the Lebanese state can no longer bear the cost of maintaining the security of the camps of the displaced and the areas where they are located."
• Hajjar's comments followed a similar statement by the inter-ministerial committee responsible for refugee affairs.
• In its response, UNHCR noted that while the agency "recognizes the immense challenges Lebanon is facing, UNHCR stresses the critical need to continue upholding the principles of refugee protection in Lebanon, including the principle of non-refoulement and the right to voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity."
• It noted that the international community has given Lebanon nearly $9 billion in assistance to deal with the refugee crisis since 2015 under the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan and urged the international community "to continue to stand by Lebanon and support persons in need." The statement also noted that, contrary to the belief of many Lebanese, refugees who get UN assistance receive it in Lebanese lira, not in dollars.
• The Brussels VI Conference on Syria, a fundraising conference for international support to refugee hosting countries, will be held on May 10. Donations have flagged in recent years and are expected to fall further this year in light of the war in Ukraine and influx of Ukrainian refugees to the European Union, which has put new demands on donor countries' resources.
• There are currently 839,086 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Lebanon, although the actual number present in the country is believed to be considerably higher, since UNHCR suspended registration of refugees in 2015 at the government's request.
• Amid the crisis in Lebanon, an increasing number of Syrian refugees, as well as Lebanese and Palestinians, have sought to leave the country via smugglers, sometimes with tragic results as in the case of the sinking of a smuggler boat near Tripoli last month that left at least six people dead, with many more still missing.
BEIRUT — Responding to an official communication from the Lebanese government saying that the country is no longer able to handle the presence of Syrian refugees, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) responded calling on Lebanon to "continue upholding principles of refugee protection" and to the international community to provide more support to Lebanon to manage the refugees' presence.Here's...