BEIRUT: The United Nations aid chief said Friday that Lebanon, where Syrians now comprise 20 percent of the population, was in need of more support from the international arena.
“We are strong advocates for international support and will continue to be,” U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergencies Valerie Amos said during a televised conference with Al-Arabiya television, noting the number of refugees needing aid has increased considerably.
As part of a series of meetings with officials, Amos discussed the refugee crisis with caretaker premier Najib Mikati, who expressed his concern that Syrians now comprise 20 percent of the population, and that this was taking a toll on social services as well as the economy. She said Mikati informed her that the government was putting together a study to review the extent of economic losses caused by the refugee presence.
She noted that there were two sides appealing for donor funds, the government and the UNHCR with its partner agencies. The government has long complained that it has not seen promised financial support from the international arena.
During the televised conference, the U.N. resident coordinator Robert Watkins said a development strategy to account for the Syrian refugees in Lebanon would be announced in the coming months. Watkins stressed that future contingency plans should be designed on the basis of expected numbers of refugees by the end of the year, and not the current count.
Amos met with caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour as well as General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, but no formal statements were released.
A source from the ministry said the options available in the event of a U.S. strike on Syria, and the expected rise in refugees coming to Lebanon as a result, was among the items discussed, but that “nothing was finalized and there was nothing new to announce.”
A source from Amos’ office said her tight schedule did not permit her to meet with the press.
For a second consecutive Friday, the U.N. refugee agency said preparations were ongoing “to strengthen preparedness for a possible influx,” in its weekly update, putting the total number of refugees at more than 726,000.
However, the agency continues to prepare for an anticipated influx ahead of Western strikes.
In addition to establishing, in partnership with the Social Affairs Ministry, an as yet unopened reception center at the Masnaa border crossing, UNHCR has also stockpiled “core relief items” for 100,000 people.
General Security spokesperson Gen. Mounir Akiki commented on the Masnaa center. “The temporary center on the border is meant to care for refugees when they arrive at the border and meet their needs until their entry documents are finalized,” he said in remarks reported by the Central News Agency.
He added that the number of border personnel would be raised so the crossing could handle a flood of refugees.