BEIRUT: Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour expressed concern Thursday over the growing number of Syrian refugees in the country and said the government needed to improve measures to control the border and limit the rising influx of people fleeing the violence in neighboring Syria.
“We need to put an end to the influx [of refugees from Syria] and we should better control the border,” Mansour told the Kataeb-run Voice of Lebanon, adding that the number of Syrian refugees has so far reached 160,000.
Mansour added that there was now also “a couple of thousand” Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon.
There are an estimated 156,000 Syrian refugees in the country registered with the U.N., according to the organization’s recent report on the status of the displaced in Lebanon.
A General Security source told The Daily Star Thursday that the total number of Palestinian who entered Lebanon since Dec. 17 stood at 2,874.
The influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon has waxed and waned ever since the uprising against President Bashar Assad in early 2011. The flow of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon comes amid intense clashes at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus.
Although Lebanon has avowed a policy of disassociation from events in its neighbor, Prime Minister Najib Mikati has repeatedly said that the border will remain open for those fleeing violence in their country.
The Lebanese government will hold next week a special session to grapple with the issue of the increasing flow of refugees to the country.
Meanwhile in Tripoli, some 50 Palestinian refugees held a protest outside the offices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) at the Baddawi Palestinian Refugee Camp.
The protesters, including men, women and children, called on the U.N. to provide them with the same level of medical care being provided to Syrian refugees in the country.
They also demanded that they be exempt from paying entry frees.
On Wednesday, Lebanon’s General Security extended the deadline of the legal stay of Palestinian refugees who have fled to Lebanon from Syria until next month.
In Geneva, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees said as many as 100,000 Palestinians may have fled Yarmouk over the past few days because of fighting.
"People are still leaving in droves," UNRWA deputy chief of staff Lisa Gilliam told AFP, adding that around two thirds of Yarmouk's 150,000 residents appeared to have left the camp. – With AFP