BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour warned Thursday against the growing tensions between impoverished host communities in Lebanon and Syrian refugees who are accused of being the lone recipients of local and international aid.
Following a meeting with the head of the European Union’s delegation to Lebanon Angelina Eichorst, Abu Faour said, “We are not only concerned about Palestinian and Syrian refugees anymore, we are concerned about the stability of Lebanon.
“There are mounting tensions that are emerging among the host communities in Lebanon on one side and the refugees on the other due to the increasing number of refugees. [This is happening] because aid is given only to the refugees and not to the local communities that were already impoverished,” the minister added.
Asked about the crisis caused by diesel and bread shortages, Abu Faour said, “these are two of the direct effects [that are causing tensions], and the Lebanese government should have a plan not only to help the Syrian refugees but also to help the local communities in Lebanon.
“The immense pressure exerted [on the country] by the displacement of the Syrians has gone far beyond the capabilities of the Lebanese government or even the Lebanese society to absorb,” Abu Faour added.
Abu Faour called on the government, donor states and international organizations to provide more aid while taking into consideration the plight of host communities at a local level.
“Lebanon does not only need financial aid; I fear that if the flow of refugees persists, Lebanon is headed toward a social and economic breakdown in light of the intensive displacement of Syrians. The increasing numbers [of refugees] that we are expecting will burden Lebanon on the economic, social, political, demographic and security fronts,” Abu Faour added.
Asked whether Lebanon will close its borders if the number of refugees continues to increase, Abu Faour said, “We can’t close our borders and we ask the Lebanese and international communities to support us in implementing the measures that have been adopted by the Cabinet. [The measures] were discussed thoroughly during the Cabinet’s weekly meeting that was chaired by President Michel Sleiman last week.”
He noted that Prime Minister Najib Mikati would chair a meeting next week to further discuss the measures that address economic, security, social and administrative concerns as well as some of the problems facing the management and organization of the relief effort.
“We have taken certain measures to form a security committee which will be tasked with coordinating with the municipalities, mukhtars and governors so that we can have a complete picture and to try to decrease the [negative] effects of the Syrian refugees on Lebanon,” the minister said.