BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman plans to raise the issue of the rising number of refugees in Lebanon before the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York in September, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in remarks published Thursday.
Over 700,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon. Sleiman has said at least 1 million Syrian refugees are residing in Lebanon, with thousands more crossing over each week.
Charbel told Al-Mustaqbal newspaper that the decision discuss the issue at the U.N. was made during a ministerial meeting Wednesday at Baadba Palace.
Charbel also insisted that the government was taking action to improve how refugees are handled as they come into the country.
Lebanon has been criticized by some for its treatment of Syrians, including by the U.S.-based group Refugees International, which issued a statement Thursday denouncing alleged restrictions imposed by General Security on Syrians trying to cross into Lebanon.
According to press reports and Syrians crossing into Lebanon, border guards are rejecting any Syrian with even light damage to his or her identification papers, and have all but banned Palestinians from entering.
“The ultimate effect of these policies is that fewer Syrians can escape the terrible violence engulfing their country,” said Daryl Grisgraber, an advocate for the organization, said after visiting Lebanon.
Charbel also discussed the refugee crisis with U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Richard Mills.
Officials from the UNHCR told The Daily Star that the agency was close to reaching an agreement with the government to establish reception centers near the border. Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour appeared to confirm this in comments to the Voice of Lebanon radio station, while adding that establishing full-scale refugee camps required a “political decision” for which support has yet to materialize.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, meanwhile, received a phone call from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who emphasized his country’s commitment to fulfilling its promise to accept 5,000 Syrian refugees. Westerwelle also informed Mikati of Germany’s intention to donate another 30 million euros to the refugee cause.
The National Saudi Campaign for the Victory of the Brothers in Syria announced it had transferred $840,000 to the Hariri Foundation to help cover the cost of school fees for Syrian children attending Hariri and Iman schools. The donation is the second and final installment of a $2.1 million aid package.