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Mikati: Lebanon disappointed with Syrian refugee aid

Valerie Amos, U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, meets with caretaker PM Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. (The Daily Star/DalatiNohra)

BEIRUT: The international community has failed Lebanon in meeting the overwhelming needs of Syrian refugees, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Thursday, as many refugees continued to cope with the onslaught of a brutal winter storm.

“Lebanon has never hesitated to carry out its humanitarian duties toward the Syrian refugees but [Lebanon] is disappointed with the international community for neglecting humanitarian considerations,” Mikati said during his meeting with Valerie Amos, the U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

“The international community did not take steps in accordance with the needs and the limited capabilities of the Lebanese state,” he added.

Amos said her meeting with Mikati centered on the effects of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, in terms of the rising number of Syrian refugees and the burden this was having on the economy, particularly the health and education sectors.

She added that the U.N. and its partners were working to support refugees, host communities and the government to address the refugee crisis.

Amos said the U.N. was implementing Security Council decisions which were agreed on in October and included a number of measures to protect civilians and facilitate the transfer of aid to refugees inside Syria.

The U.N. has a plan for communities in need to face the arrival of the winter season, Amos, who was accompanied by top U.N. officials in Lebanon, Derek Plumbly and Robert Watkins, added.

Amos also met with caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour, who said in a news conference after the meeting that establishing safe passages into Syria was the only means to assuage Lebanon’s refugee burden.

"If the U.N., with the help of the international community, can come to a decision with the Syrian regime to establish [safe passages]...this is the only possible solution to help displaced Syrians in their country and stop the influx into Lebanon,” Abu Faour said.

He reiterated the Lebanese government's demand for the establishment of refugee camps in Syria under U.N. protection.

“The issue is not one of aid, it’s a political issue,” he added. “The international community, which once obliged the Syrian regime to comply and get rid of its chemical weapons can also oblige the Syrian regime to such a solution, otherwise the refugee situation will worsen.”

Abu Faour said the U.N. delegation headed by Amos informed him that efforts to establish such passages and camps in Syria were ongoing.

The minister also criticized the failure of the Lebanese government to establish formal refugee camps, saying formal camps would have lessened the impacts of the winter season on the refugees in Lebanon, especially those living in makeshift and tent settlements.

 

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