BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas called Thursday on international actors to help Lebanon face the Syrian refugee crisis, or else the country’s different sectors will collapse.
“We call on Lebanon’s friends in the international community to share this collective responsibility by immediately increasing aid to Lebanon in a significant manner,” Derbas said, “so we can prevent the collapse of the [country’s] economic structure and its consequences on the humanitarian condition [of Lebanon’s residents], as well as the security and stability of the country.”
His comments came in an event at the Grand Serail launching the semi-annual evaluation of the Regional Response Plan for the Syrian crisis.
Derbas highlighted that the Lebanese state has so far only received 23% of the required $174 million in aid. Aside from the aid to the state, more than $1.4 billion was needed to face the consequences of the refugee crisis, he said.
UNHCR’s website states that more than $1.3 billion was still needed to reach the estimated cost of relieving the refugee crisis in Lebanon.
“What worsened conditions was the settlement of most Syrian refugees in border rural areas that had already suffered from poverty of development,” Derbas said.
“Their numbers exceeded the number of original residents in many places.”
This flow of Syrian refugees to poor areas has increased the pool of workers available, Derbas explained, thus decreasing the wages that are being paid. It has also increased the need for welfare services by doubling unemployment.
“The number of poor people in Lebanon has exceeded a quarter of Lebanon’s residents,” he added.
The minister also mentioned the infrastructural and environmental consequences of the Syrian refugee crisis.
“[The refugee crisis] has furthered the deterioration in infrastructure,” he said, especially in terms of “roads, electricity, water, sanitation services, solid waste and groundwater.”
Derbas explained that the Cabinet has formed a crisis management team in response to this crisis.
“The crisis cell has made three key decisions to face the harsh consequences on the small country,” he explained. It first revoked the refugee status of all refugees who visit Syria after their registration at UNHCR. The team also decided that only the refugees coming from border areas would be allowed access, and that no refugee camps would be established inside the Lebanese territory except through an official permit.
The event was attended by the ministers of health, economy and education, Wael Abu Faour, Alain Hakim and Elias Bou Saab respectively.
UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon, Ninette Kelly, and representatives of donor states were also present. Kelly gave a speech at the event in which she presented the statistics on Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the aid provided to them.
She said that 106,752 refugees have so far benefited from improvements to unsafe residences, and 250,000 had found homes after the reconstruction and rehabilitation of unused residences.
Helping refugees to survive was the $101 million provided to them in the form of electronic cards and food vouchers. In addition, nearly 400,000 medical consultations were provided to Syrian refugees and Lebanese poor, Kelly said.