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Abu Faour: Lebanon must not neglect needs of Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees in the city of Sidon, after receiving aid from United Nations officials. (The Daily Star / Mohammed Zaatari)
Syrian refugees in the city of Sidon, after receiving aid from United Nations officials. (The Daily Star / Mohammed Zaatari)
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BEIRUT: Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour said over the weekend it was unacceptable that Lebanon fall short in terms of its responsibility toward Syrian refugees in the country, days after the country’s Higher Relief Committee shut down key services to the refugees.

“Lebanon should not neglect its duties toward the refugees as this is a moral and humanitarian matter before being a political one,” Abou Faour, who spoke in south Lebanon, said Saturday.

The HRC announced the shutdown of most of its Syrian refugee-related operations Tuesday due to a lack of funding. The body stopped covering the cost of secondary health care and limited other types of aid distribution such as food.

Hinting of division in the government on the issue of supporting the refugees, Abou Faour said: “We went beyond discussions in Cabinet and arrived at a conclusion that Lebanon needs to find a solution and fulfill its obligations and therefore any reversal on this subject is unacceptable.”

“If there was a failure or mismanagement then let us be responsible and remedy this failure,” he added.

The Progressive Socialist Party official also said that there were other sources of funding such as donations “if there is a shortage of money.”

He also said the issue of funding the refugees should not cause more division in the country.

Details of how the shutdown of HCR’s services will affect displaced Syrians emerged Friday in the latest report from U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

As the number of refugees in the country continues to rise to what many estimate is above 60,000, the impact of the cutoff could be significant, the U.N. body said in its weekly report.

“This will have a severe impact on UNHCR and partner agencies,” the report read.

“While agencies will continue to shoulder most of the costs of humanitarian assistance, current funding levels do not permit these agencies from filling in for all coverage previously provided by the HRC.

“UNHCR is actively advocating for additional funding sources for the HRC in order to fill this urgent gap,” the report said.

UNHCR is aiding around 30,000 refugees in the country of which 28,477 are registered with the aid body.

During his speech Saturday, Abu Faour said he received report from a number of organizations, lawmakers and refugees concerning emergency medical cases that need to be treated.

“We in the Arab Struggle Front contacted the prime minister and told him our stance that we are against the prejudice by the state in the matter of the refugees.”

Abu Faour said Prime Minister Najib Mikati showed understanding and gave instructions to the HCR to help facilitate and treat the emergency cases.

The minister said a meeting would be held Wednesday with the UNHCR to put in place “future mechanisms to ensure there is no exploitation.”

“We also do not want safe havens or buffer zones,” he added.

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