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Syrian refugees to locations outside the region

Lebanon Pleads for Help in Dealing with Refugees

Syrian refugees to locations outside the region

Lebanon Pleads for Help in Dealing with Refugees

Lebanon pleaded for more international support to tackle the huge influx of refugees from the war-ravaged country, warning the burden could destabilize the whole region.

“We are calling on the international community to bear its responsibility,” caretaker Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abou Faour told diplomats gathered in Geneva, slamming the lack of assistance from outside the region.

He was speaking alongside the foreign ministers of Jordan, Turkey and Iraq at a special meeting of the U.N. refugee agency focused on how to better distribute the burden of the swelling Syria conflict, which since March 2011 has killed over 100,000 people and forced more than 2.1 million to flee into neighboring countries.

“The impact of the refugee influx on the societies, economies and communities of the host countries is immense,” warned U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. He demanded that the global community help Syria’s overstretched neighbors, which are already “going through huge demographic changes following the refugee influx, unsettling their social and economic fabric.”

The countries in the region may need direct budget support, as well as long-term development investment, Guterres said, stressing also that countries outside the region needed to take in some of the refugees.

“I call on all countries, particularly in Europe and the extended Middle East, to allow Syrians to access asylum and enjoy quality protection,” he said.

If the situation in Syria deteriorates drastically, he warned, “the international community may also have to consider the humanitarian emergency evacuation of Syrian refugees to locations outside the region to help ease the pressure on neighboring countries.”

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who also spoke at the conference, stressed the “very severe risk of destabilization.”

“We need to keep our borders open,” she said.

Pressure on Syria’s neighbors has already become unbearable, their representatives said recently.

Lebanon counted some 769,000 Syrians registered or in the process of registering as refugees, Abou Faour told reporters, pointing out that the number had been 763,000 at the end of last month.

Including all the unregistered Syrians, the actual number is around 1.3 million, he said, or about 30 percent of the Lebanese population.

Despite the massive influx and Lebanon’s many appeals for international help, “nothing of significance has materialized so far. Not one hospital. Not one school,” Abou Faour said.

“We are more than disappointed. We are frustrated. It has been more than two years of advice, of lessons, of promises and nothing,” he said, warning that the “huge pressure” on his already fragile country’s infrastructure, schools, health system and services was creating “antagonistic trends against Syrian refugees” and calls from some to close the borders.

Suleiman Pushing for Return of Refugees to Syria

President Michel Suleiman has said Lebanese authorities would push for the return of some of the Syrian refugees, who have escaped to Lebanon, to safe areas in their country.

In press remarks, Suleiman said: “Their return would take place through coordination with the local administration.”

“Some of the displaced could return to safe areas in Syria or could be placed in camps inside Syria under the supervision of international agencies,” he said.

Suleiman said the possible return of the refugees would be managed by a committee that he had proposed to form during recent’s International Support Group for Lebanon meeting that was held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

EU states fear Syrian refugee influx

European Union governments are bracing for a surge in Syrian refugees that threatens to become a flood as hopes fade for a quick end to the bloody civil war. Some two million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries so far, with four million internally displaced as the death toll mounts to more than 110,000. Thousands are seeking a new life in the EU, especially in the bloc’s wealthier member states, with Italy among the worst affected. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has warned to be ready for a massive influx, especially if there are US military action against forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad, one EU official said. “For the moment, the number of those arriving is manageable,” the official said, adding:

Lebanon’s Economy Ravaged by Syria: World Bank

Spillover from the Syrian war has cost neighboring Lebanon billions of dollars, deeply damaged its economy and harshly strained social services such as health, education and electricity, according to a new report by the World Bank.

 “With the escalation of the Syrian conflict, spillovers onto Lebanon have rapidly moved beyond the humanitarian to the economic and social spheres,” the report said.

The civil war raging for more than two years has sent more than 900,000 Syrian refugees pouring into Lebanon, according to the report. That amounts to more than 20 percent of Lebanon’s pre-crisis population of about 4.3 million.

About 2,000 Syrian refugees are arriving every day. Based on current trends, 1.3 million Syrian refugees could be in Lebanon by the end of the year.

The report estimates that the total costs of spillover will shave close to 3 percentage points off gross domestic product growth per year between 2012 and 2014. Unemployment will double to more than 20 percent, and about 170,000 additional Lebanese will be plunged into poverty on top of some 1 million living below the poverty line.

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