BEIRUT: Caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil warned Friday that the Syrian refugee crisis threatens the existence of Lebanon and said the country must stop receiving refugees.
“The Syrian refugee crisis is the biggest crisis threatening the Lebanese entity,” Bassil told a news conference held to address the surge in the number of Syrian refugees crossing into the country.
“We should stop receiving refugees with the exception of those who need health care,” Bassil said.
The United Nations is aiding over 750,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, while several hundred thousand other Syrians are also in the country, either as refugees who have not asked for assistance, or as displaced people living off their own resources.
Lebanese officials say the country needs more international aid to cope with the huge numbers of refugees.
Bassil criticized the efforts of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government to provide better services for refugees.
“Services being provided by the state for the Syrian refugees encourage further displacement,” he said.
Bassil suggested the refugees would never leave after being helped.
“Requesting funds to improve their conditions will lead to a merger policy in Lebanon.
“We have become two peoples in one state and not one people in two states,” he said.
Bassil widely condemned the Syrians as a threat to the safety, economy and identity of the country.
He said that around 87 percent of those detained by the police and people undergoing court trials were Syrians. However, according to an ISF source, statistics gathered since the beginning of the Syrian uprising until recent months have indicated that Syrians made up no more than 20 percent of the total of people arrested.
Bassil also claimed that between 220,000 and 230,000 Lebanese face unemployment as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis.
He said the refugee crisis also increased electricity usage as well, as represented by a 213-306 megawatt jump in demand, out of a total demand of 2,600 megawatts. Demand for water has also risen, he said, by 26.1 million cubic meters a year.
Separately, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon reported that some 1,300 Syrian refugees were evicted from their rented land or dwellings at eight different locations in the Bekaa Valley over the past month.
The refugees were “evicted from their places of residence either because they were no longer able to pay their rent on time or because they settled on private land,” the UNHCR stated in its monthly update released Friday.
The UNHCR and its partner agency the Danish Refugee Council relocated those refugees “deemed most vulnerable” to alternative shelters.
The update also announced that a “participatory assessment exercise” had begun this month. It will involve refugees of all ages in discussions to identify problems they encountered and assessing their communities’ capacity to respond to those problems.
The results of the assessment, which is now underway in the north, south, Beirut and Mount Lebanon, will be finalized by the end of October and incorporated into agencies’ response programs.