BEIRUT: Lebanon appealed to the international community Thursday for help coping with the staggering 1.2 million Syrian refugees it says will be in the country by the end of the year, proposing U.N.-sponsored camps inside Syria’s borders.
Lebanon’s Ambassador to the U.N. Nawaf Salam also told members of the Security Council that the fighting in Syria had reached Lebanese border areas in the form of an increased number of “dangerous” violations of the country’s sovereignty.
“Whereas 3,000 refugees enter Lebanon from Syria on a daily basis, it is expected that the total number of Syrian refugees will reach 1.2 million by the end of the year,” Salam said during the opening of a public briefing by the U.N. agency chiefs for humanitarian affairs and refugees.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said last week it had so far registered 416,000 Syrians in Lebanon. Government officials warn that there could be several hundred thousand unregistered individuals in addition to the 40,000 Palestinian refugees who have fled Syria to Lebanon.
“[The] effect [of the Syrian refugees crisis] has started to appear on the Lebanese social makeup as the social, economic and security situations have worsened ... [this is] especially [important given] that a large part of the refugees reside in the country’s poorest areas,” Salam said, adding that the number of refugees would come to make up a quarter of Lebanon’s population.
He noted that the thousands of refugees have also burdened the already deteriorating economic situation in the country by putting “pressure on the labor market and [causing a] rise in inflation” rates.
During the briefing, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Ant?nio Guterres, called for international funding for host countries including Lebanon, saying the latter needed massive support and “it cannot do it alone.”
Despite warnings by U.N. officials that Lebanon will no longer be able to offer needed aid for the refugees “without an actual increase in the quantity and quality of support,” Salam said the country’s porous borders with Syria would remain open.
Salam reiterated his government’s policy of disassociation toward events in Syria.
He also relayed President Michel Sleiman’s call for the international community to help the country by fulfilling its pledges of financial assistance to host countries and to study ways to divide the “burden and numbers stemming from the principle of shared responsibility to prevent negative repercussions on civil and regional peace.”
“Sleiman also called for the establishment of camps inside Syria, but away from conflict zones and near neighboring countries, under the protection of the U.N. We ask you to look into this,” he added.
Salam also said that the conflict in Syria had reached Lebanese border areas, voicing condemnation of frequent shelling regardless of the perpetrator or the reasons behind them.
“We, as well as many others, have always warned of repercussions resulting from the ongoing crisis, not only on Syria but also its neighbors, as the military repercussions of the battles in Syria have reached border areas in Lebanon, in the form of increased dangerous violations of its sovereignty and security,” he said.
Salam said he would join the call by U.N. humanitarian officials, including Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, for the Security Council “to summon and use its influence to save the Syrian people and save the region from disaster.”