Lebanon pushes against hurdles set by west to end Syrian refugee crisis
The growing cost of the Syrian refugee crisis, along with the severe economic meltdown in Lebanon, has led Beirut to move away from the international community to find plausible solutions
By News Desk - July 08 2022

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Lebanese Minister of Refugee Affairs Issam Sharaf al-Din has accused western countries and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of sabotaging Lebanon’s efforts to end the Syrian refugee crisis.

In an interview with Al Manar TV on 7 July, Sharaf al-Din blamed donor countries and the UNHCR representative of lack of cooperation and refusal to assist the government in coordinating with Syria.

According to Sharaf al-Din, the head of the UNHCR in Lebanon, Ayaki Ito, initially proposed a tripartite committee between Lebanon, Syria, and the UNHCR before backtracking.

Ito then explicitly refused the proposal by Sharaf al-Din to support refugees when they leave Lebanon, stating donors’ refusal of such actions.

“I pleaded with Ayaki Ito to retract this decision because of the negative effect on the motivation of Syrians to remain in Lebanon. We have witnessed exploitation of this crisis by some western donors for political reasons,” Sharaf al-Din said.

As of 2022, financial support from the UNHCR to Lebanon is said to have totaled $9 billion over the years.

However, despite this support, Lebanon’s economic crisis has made it impossible to carry this burden anymore.

According to economists, Lebanon has spent more than $30 billion to cover the costs of services offered to Syrians during their decade-long stay.

“I think the Lebanese state has started to feel the burden of Syrian refugees in economic and social terms, and to realize that its duty is to deal with it,” Nawar al-Sahili said.

Al-Sahili is a previous parliamentary representative of Hezbollah and the current head of its effort to cooperate with the government to tackle the refugee crisis.

An earlier statement by the Lebanese Minister of Economy, Amin Salam, revealed that Syrian refugee families consume up to four hundred thousand bundles of pita bread daily.

This amount of consumption is 40-50 percent of the total amount of subsidized bread, and has allegedly been a hinderance to the government’s ability to ease the problem of wheat shortages in Lebanon.

Similar allegations regarding depletion of subsidized resources were echoed by the ministers of energy over the years.

The wheat shortage led to an unprecedented threat by Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to deport tens of thousands of refugees, in a bid to force the international community to cooperate.

However, the public outcry citing the threat to the well-being of political dissidents upon return to Syria was refuted by assurances given by the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon.

The general amnesty issued by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to pardon Syrians who committed crimes that did not lead to killings has led to the first Lebanese governmental visit to Syria since 2011 to negotiate the end of Syrian refugee presence in Lebanon.

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