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Sleiman says Lebanon could build Syrian refugee camps
President Michel Sleiman Receiving The Diplomatic Corps.(The Address of President Michel Sleiman.) Tuesday, January 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)
President Michel Sleiman Receiving The Diplomatic Corps.(The Address of President Michel Sleiman.) Tuesday, January 15, 2013. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra/HO)
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BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman said Tuesday Lebanon could build refugee camps in order to better monitor and regulate the large number of Syrian refugees in the country.

“If we have to build refugee camps then I don’t see why not. There might come a time when we need to organize these people in order to shelter and support them because by dispersing them we are losing control,” Sleiman told a delegation from the Association of Arab correspondents.

He added that refugees should be placed in a specific location to control entry and exit and ensure everyone is receiving shelter.

“We are in need of technical support for the refugees, particularly financial support and we will explain the situation of the refugees [to donor countries] because this is now requiring some sort of regulations to distinguish between people seeking real refuge and others; knowing that the door will not be closed in the face of any person who is scared, hungry, sick or wounded,” the president said.

Sleiman was referring to the donor conference scheduled for Jan. 30 in Kuwait to collect funds help host countries including Lebanon cope with the rising number of Syrian refugees.

Sleiman voiced hope that the conference will end with Lebanon being allocated the needed funds.

“We have received some signs that there will be support ... but previous experiences are very discouraging, although talk for now has been good,” he said.

The government has appealed for $180 million annually to pay for health, social and education services for the refugees. Over 223,000 Syrians have so far sought refuge in Lebanon as a result of the conflict in their home country, according to Lebanese officials.

Lebanon expects the number to reach 500,000 in June while the U.N. has estimated that 1 million Syrians will become refugees by mid-2013.

Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour also spoke during the delegation’s visit at Baabda Palace, explaining reasons behind refugee camps in the country.

Abu Faour said the camps have become “inevitable” due to economic and security pressure.

“The only solution to better control the situation is the option to build camps in order control security and lessen economic competition,” he added.

Sleiman is expected to travel Wednesday to Kuwait to participate in the donor conference.

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