BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas estimated Sunday that there were now at least 1,250 Syrian refugee camps spread across Lebanon.
“The number of random Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon has become 1,250,” the minister told LBCI television channel.
The minister said the Lebanese authorities had the complete records of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The number of refugees registered with the UNHCR exceeds a million, but the Lebanese government estimates there are far more unregistered Syrians who have fled the battles in their war-torn country. Lebanon has resisted the establishment of official refugee camps, and most of those seeking shelter from the Syrian war are living in Lebanese towns and villages. There are also thousands of Palestinians from Syria who have sought refuge in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps.
Derbas said the government had been discussing the conditions for giving Syrians refugee status, adding that only those Syrians coming from “unsafe zones” in their country would be classified as refugees.
Lebanon's Interior Ministry warned Syrians against traveling back to their home country Saturday, suggesting those who cross the border would be denied refugee status if they return to Lebanon.
“In the framework of organizing the entry and exit of Syrians in Lebanon, all Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR are asked to refrain from entering Syria starting June 1, 2014, or else they might be stripped of their refugee status,” the ministry said in a statement.
Lebanon has long had a sizeable population of migrant Syrian workers living in the country, making it difficult to distinguish refugees from those already accustomed to coming to Lebanon for work.