Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has urged the international community to help secure the safe return of Syrian refugees to their country.
Otherwise, Mikati warned, Beirut is ready to expel displaced Syrians from the crisis-hit country.
During a ceremony on 20 June for the launch of the 2022-2023 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, Mikati said: “Lebanon has been under unbearable pressure due to the presence of more than 1.7 million displaced Syrians and Palestinian refugees living in all parts of the country, in 97 percent of Lebanon’s municipalities.”
“I call on the international community to work with Lebanon to secure the return of Syrian refugees to their country, or else Lebanon will … work to get Syrians out through legal means and the firm application of Lebanese law,” Mikati added.
During the ceremony, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon and Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rushdi stated that “nine out of ten Syrians in Lebanon live in poverty, while poverty levels have also increased significantly among the Lebanese, immigrants and Palestinian populations.”
Lebanon also appealed for $3.2 billion to address the impact of the US-sponsored war in Syria, according to a UN statement.
Some $9 billion have been provided in assistance through the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan since 2015, the UN says.
According to the World Bank, Lebanon’s economic and financial crisis is likely to rank in the top 10 – possibly in the top three – most severe crises in the world since the mid-nineteenth century.
Poverty is on the rise, the middle class has been plunged into poverty, real GDP per capita has fallen by 37.1 percent, consumer prices have soared, the Lebanese lira has lost more than 90 percent of its value against the dollar, and the financial sector is bankrupt.
The crisis has also exacerbated public resentment over the continued presence of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the country.
Mikati’s warning comes just days after the US mediator for the maritime dispute between Lebanon and Israel, Amos Hochstein, told Lebanese citizens that they should consider accepting “creative” compromises to resolve the dispute over the Karish gas field.
During an interview with Al-Hurra TV on 14 June, Hochstein asked: “What is a creative idea that we can all compromise around? [One] that both sides will feel ‘I may not have gotten everything I want, but I got a lot more than what I have right now.’
“Which, Hochstein went on to say, “in the case of Lebanon, is nothing.”
The US mediator also said Lebanon needs to pursue the “correct” approach, and that people should “stop thinking: do I have the most legal case?” over the gas field that is located within Lebanon’s maritime borders, and which could alleviate the country’s severe economic crisis.