BEIRUT — The United Nations has suspended its "dual currency" mechanism for the provision of all cash assistance to refugees in Lebanon for the next month, according to a joint statement by UN representatives issued Saturday. UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, had announced Tuesday that Syrian refugees would be able to withdraw cash aid in dollars by the end of May.
“As a result of meetings held yesterday with the Caretaker Prime Minister, H.E. Najib Mikati, and Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs, H.E. Hector Hajjar, and based on their requests, a decision has been made to temporarily pause the use of dual currency for next month's disbursement of cash assistance to refugees, while discussions continue on appropriate modalities," reads the statement co-signed by the deputy special coordinator of the United Nations in Lebanon, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the local representative of the World Food Program.
Speaking to L'Orient Today, a UNHCR spokesperson confirmed that the UN will continue to distribute cash assistance to refugees in Lebanese lira this month.
On Friday, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar called for a "reversal" of the UN refugee agency's recent move to grant US dollar cash aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which he called a "mistaken decision" and a "crime against Lebanon."
"We were not consulted on this matter, even though we are the concerned ministry," Hajjar said Friday.
The United Nations in its statement, expressed its "commitment to humanitarian principles in supporting the Government to assist the most vulnerable people across Lebanon," adding, "All programmatic decisions are taken with full transparency and commitment to our mandate including decisions on assistance modalities which are based on solid, objective evidence and thorough research."
“We continue to stand with the people and Government of Lebanon during these difficult times and foster a collaborative environment to reach those most in need, including refugees,” the statement concluded.
Hajjar also called Friday for refugees to receive the payment of aid upon their return to Syria to encourage such returns.
Cash assistance has previously been paid by UNHCR in dollars, but converted by the Lebanese authorities into lira for payment to refugees, creating a shortfall due to the volatile exchange rate of the national currency against the greenback.
According to estimates by the Lebanese authorities, more than 2 million Syrians have taken refuge in Lebanon since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, while the UN has registered 830,000 Syrian refugees with the organization. Their presence is perceived by some Lebanese groups as a major demographic, economic and security issue, all the more so as the country suffers through a serious socio-economic crisis. But rights groups have warned that returning to Syria remains dangerous for many refugees amid continued fighting, state torture and forced disappearances.
With the dollarization of aid, a family receiving food and non-food aid in cash will receive — depending on the program it is enrolled in — $25 per family for non-food needs and/or $20 per family member for food needs, with a ceiling of five members.
Since the end of 2022, Lebanese nationals and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon receiving cash assistance from the UNHCR have been able to cash in the amounts paid in dollars or lira, according to UNHCR.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that the UN had suspended the provision of all cash assistance to refugees in Lebanon for one month. L'Orient Today apologizes for this error.
BEIRUT — The United Nations has suspended its "dual currency" mechanism for the provision of all cash assistance to refugees in Lebanon for the next month, according to a joint statement by UN representatives issued Saturday. UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, had announced Tuesday that Syrian refugees would be able to withdraw cash aid in dollars by the end of May. “As a result of...