BEIRUT: The Lebanese Cabinet has agreed that there is a possibility that refugee camps for displaced Syrians could be established on the Lebanese border, provided certain conditions are met, Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Saturday.
“We have agreed within the Cabinet that there are vast tracts of land in Al-Aboudiya and Masna’a where camps could be established, and three necessary conditions for doing so: the existence of international guarantees to protect the camps from attack -- because no Syrian would accept to stay in a settlement that is under threat of attack -- securing funding to set up the camps and UNHCR accepting to manage them,” said Derbas in an interview with the Voice of Lebanon radio.
Derbas also suggested that there could be medium-sized enterprises in Akkar and east Lebanon that would house makeshift transportable homes -- the kind that Syrians could take back into Syria with them after the cessation of hostilities. These easily installed houses have already been implemented in the Zaatari camp in Jordan.
Derbas had previously suggested camps be set up inside Syrian territory, however the lack of international protection guarantees and the inability of international actors to ensure safety on Syrian territory has compelled Derbas to reconsider.
“No one in Lebanon is eager to build camps inside the country’s territory, but we are eager to release the tension present in Lebanese society,” he said, adding that "the difference in views over the location of the camps will reach a stage where we will agree, because the problem is major and requires us to confront the situation and prepare our files to donors [both] regionally and internationally.”
Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned against attempts to permanently settle Syrian refugees in Lebanon Friday, arguing that Lebanon must start imposing its own conditions and regulations regarding the entry of Syrians fleeing violence in their country.
He stressed that the conditions to register refugees should be the responsibility of the state rather than the U.N., in line with a series of decisions approved by a Lebanese ministerial committee to downsize the influx of displaced Syrians.
According to Bassil, one of the solutions to the refugee crisis is to establish camps in buffer zones along the border between Lebanon and Syria and in Lebanese territory that is most easily accessed from Syria, for example the village of Tfail.