BEIRUT — Lebanese Army Commander-in-Chief Gen. Joseph Aoun said Friday that the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is an "existential threat" to the country, according to an official army statement.
On Friday, Aoun visited a number of areas in Hermel, on the Lebanese-Syrian border, in the presence of Baalbeck governor Bachir Khodr and local authorities. He visited two army bases in the area and inspected the measures taken to monitor the border.
During the visit, Aoun said the "immigration of Syrians represents an existential threat to Lebanon and the Lebanese which should be resolved on an individual and organizational level."
"The army is so far from being racist, it prioritizes the rights of people and puts it in the front of its mission, but these rights existed to preserve the rights of people not to destroy it," he added.
On Thursday, the army announced that it arrested around 1,000 people just in the previous the past week who tried to illegally cross into Lebanon from Syria.
The matter of Syrian refugees has been on the top files discussed in daily Lebanese politics. While the Lebanese political class wants to repatriate the Syrian refugees, human rights organizations warn of safety risks from the Syrian regime in case of return.
Lebanon hosts around 800,000 registered Syrian refugees but the Lebanese government estimates the total number of refugees to be between 1.5 to 2 million.