BEIRUT: The government is seeking to reduce the number of Syrian refugees entering the country, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Tuesday, warning that the Syrians constituted 27 percent of Lebanon’s population.
Machnouk’s warning comes as Lebanon awaits financial aid promised by international donor countries to help Syria’s neighboring countries cope with the flow of refugees into their territories.
The minister also announced a 16 million euro gift from the European Union to support Lebanese municipalities accommodating Syrians.
“Syrian refugees are our guests, but the Lebanese government does not have the resources and infrastructure to endure their number,” Machnouk told municipal delegations representing and EU representatives. “Syrian refugees are our relatives, but we will not allow them to cause problems in Lebanon.”
Machnouk said the presence of more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanese territory posed a major problem for Lebanon, which is suffering from the negative fallout of the 3-year-old war in Syria.
“We are today discussing a plan aiming to limit the entry of more Syrian refugees into Lebanon by drawing up criteria to determine refugee status, the country’s ability to absorb them and the services that can be offered because donations are often few and come late,” he said.
He added that the plan, being discussed by a committee headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam, was coordinated with the EU.
“There are 1 million [Syrian] refugees in Lebanon, making up 27 percent of the country’s population, in addition to an unregistered 300,000,” Machnouk said.
He added that Jordan hosts some 600,000 Syrian refugees, making up 10 percent of its population, while there are 800,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, constituting only 4 percent of its population.
Machnouk said the government’s plan to curb the influx of Syrian refugees depended on two things: determining refugee status and stopping the entry of new refugees from safe areas in Syria.
The U.N. High Commission for Refugees said in a statement earlier this month that Syrian refugees had hit the million mark in Lebanon.
The war in Syria has uprooted millions of Syrians from their homes, and the U.N. estimates there are now more than 2.5 million Syrians registered in neighboring countries, with over 47,700 awaiting registration.
UNHCR said the 1 million Syrians were a huge burden on Lebanon.
Last year, the World Bank said in a report that Syria’s conflict would cost Lebanon $7.5 billion in cumulative economic losses by the end of 2014.