BEIRUT: Germany’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid Markus Loning emphasized Thursday his country’s commitment to supporting Lebanon in coping with the influx of Syrian refugees.
He also emphasized Germany’s interest in ensuring Lebanon remains as stable as possible in the face worsening conflict in Syria. Speaking to journalists Thursday evening, Loning described his meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati as “very constructive,” and assured that “the Lebanese government can count on [German] support as the situation is now and if it gets worse.”
There are currently some 34,000 Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon, but thousands more have entered the country.
Loning commended Lebanon on the efforts made to shelter the refugees, saying that Europeans should be aware of the “great hospitality” afforded those fleeing violence in Syria.
The German representative also met with Future Movement head and former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri’s adviser Ali Hamdan and the UNHCR.
Loning described his visit as an information-gathering exercise. It immediately follows a trip of the same nature to Jordan.
Pressed on what format German assistance to Lebanon would take, Loning said, “no specific plans were discussed” but that “the main support we are giving right now is financial.”
He added that Berlin has just decided to allocate an extra 1 million euros ($1.22 million) to Lebanon’s Syrian refugee relief efforts.
Loning also said the German contribution to Syrian refugee relief in both Lebanon and Jordan to date totals 11 million euros.
Expressing his faith in the Lebanese government, Loning also emphasized that while he shared his experiences of Amman’s approach to the issue, the Lebanese government “knows best” how to address the matter.
One significant difference between the neighboring countries’ approaches is Jordan’s opening of a refugee camp for Syrians on the outskirts of the border city Mafraq.
Questioned as to whether establishing a similar camp on Lebanese soil was a topic in his meetings, Loning replied: “We discussed all issues, and that was one of the issues.”
He refused to be drawn on the recent deportation of 14 Syrians to Damascus by Lebanon’s General Security. The commissioner did, however, highlight that Germany is “not extraditing anyone to Syria at the moment.”